written on July 22, 2010
Just a few nights ago I had returned home and was sitting out front by the lawn. Riding my bicycle home has really given me a good lower body workout as I carry everything in my backpack and the ride home is mostly uphill.
I was enjoying the slight breeze and slight drop in temperature and watching the scene on the front lawn. Our house has some fruit trees and the apricot tree has been particularly abundant. My landlady does nothing special I am aware of for this to be the case but people from all over have asked for permission to help themselves to the “extra” apricots.
That evening several people were over. One of my landlady’s friends was there for the ones that had been dropped, squished, or were overripe. She was going to use these to slop the hogs, who apparently love apricots in any condition. Some other neighbors from the local Mennonite community where there, we greeted each other warmly, and they very respectfully took their fill. My landlady’s daughter and her two little girls were with her to get their share and spend some time outside. There wasn’t much I wanted to do besides rest up after my arduous uphill climb and watch the day draw to a close.
As I sat there, one of my landlady’s granddaughters who is about two years old, and is about as adorable as any girl could be at that age, walks up to me stamps her little feet and announces,
“You can’t catch me!”
I smiled at her. I have seen her a few times before but we had not discussed much before this evening. I thought to myself, “Oh my God. Here we go again; Chase me, Jesus!” Then I realized this little girl has no idea I am Jesus and if someone were to tell her I was Jesus she would say I was not because I do not resemble any of the various depictions of Jesus in our house or any other house in the vicinity. There is one in our house of what my last meal from 2,000 years ago must have been like and the Jesus looks no more like me than any other Caucasian. He actually looks somewhat Germanic, if you ask me. I have also noticed in this very strange hologram Last Supper that the one diner who must be Judas Iscariot looks much more like my half-brother Geoff Donne than Jonathan Turteltaub. Truthfully, Jesus in this picture looks much more like Jonathan Turteltaub than me. I think I look more like one of the Simons or Peters. Anyway…
Before almost any of that goes through my head the little girl approaches me slowly, stops a few feet away and taunts me again with, “You can’t catch me!” And even though there is a part of me that thinks, “I don’t want to go” I stand up to chase her. Slowly. I am aware she has about one year’s experience in walking and running and although the lawn is lush for having been under snow for so many months, the ground is uneven and she could fall and hurt herself. I follow her, reaching out very slowly like a happy zombie matching her pace as she prances the lawn. Running about knees high and laughing all the way she makes very slow progress in her little circles and I do not close that gap very quickly. I suppose I am destined to do this, too. Perhaps this type of dance with every girl from the age of two to ninety-two is what really summarizes my life and not the merry-go-round I saw many years ago that was installed at a park in San Jose adjacent to an arena that now bears the sponsorship emblem of HP.
The little girl runs about, peals of laughter trailing behind her, and falls. She laughs. She gets up and continues to run a bit more, falls, and laughs. At one point she winds up on her back, her dress hiked up so I can see her training pants and she writhes on the ground giggling. I look at her a bit and look away feeling just slight embarrassment. She hides behind a bush with a few branches to obscure her view of me and I indulge her little fantasy by pretending not to see her. It occurs to me I have done this so many times in the past. I have been doing a very similar macabre Charade with other women in this town and others. Seeing and pretending not to see.
Eventually I sit back down, only slightly feigning the exhaustion I feel chasing her at puppy’s pace and consider this round with this little one has ended. Then she slowly walks over to my right side, less than a foot away, and gets set to take off again. Before she has the chance to entice me again I reach out with both arms and embrace her firmly, but not too closely, and tell her “I got you.” She laughs loudly and does not struggle against me at all. You would think she wanted me to catch her the whole time.
The others watch us, content that I kept this little obstacle out of their way and seemingly entertained at the harmless fun the little girl and I had with each other for a few precious minutes. Soon enough, darkness consumes the sky and everyone packs up their things and heads home until the morning.