Ryane Nicole Granados
Sometimes my sister Prose and I go for walks. Usually we do it when Mommy is in the middle of her evening dust free derby at which time she decides there is to be no walking on the mopped floors, no stepping on the strategic vacuum lines painting the carpet's canvas, no sitting on the fanatically fluffed couch and most importantly no breathing near the streak free windows, mirrors, glass ware, and Clorox cleansed counter tops. And so we walk. Around the block and around the block again because to cross the street at dark would be indulge in a game of hit and miss; cars against pedestrians.
The best time to walk is when the sun settles behind the 405 and the street lamps buzz until they can finally muster the strength to burst open with light. Then, as if an electrically charged current runs beneath the roadway of the Ave’s, porch lights, kitchen lights, and living room televisions, headlights bound for home and city lights leaping across the sky shine brilliantly throughout the streets. Prose has decided that the evening tide is God’s daily Fourth of July.
You can see so much more when you walk the streets than the portrait revealed from a passenger seat window. You can see the goings on of families sitting down to dinner, friends swapping saucy secrets, baby’s first steps, boy’s first kiss, and girl’s first taste of the reality that her parents don’t have all the answers. When window walking, the soul of the world rests between the drawn curtains of Los Angeles.
Miss Maige lives in the window, three sprinkler heads away. On the first floor, behind the oak wood door, within the pale yellow walls sprouting up from the forest green carpet seen through the four-foot glass pane is Miss Maige quilting the kinfolk of kinfolk into a lineage of linen. A family quilt to be passed down from Ave to Ave, the covering for visiting grandchildren, the drape protecting the house from the quick-witted wind outsmarting the loose brick designed to plug the brownstone hole. An ancestral comforter that tells the story of stories for all that climb under and listen.
Roxanne lives in the window above Ms. Maige. Only seventeen but on her own because the suits say there’s no longer room for her in the foster home. Roxanne has a love that she swoons over at night. Our window walking reveals her window gazing with devotion painted on her eyes like makeup. He’s nineteen and he’s a cadet at the police academy. He protects and serves Roxanne like a concierge to the doorway of her heart. He scares off the street squatters who wait for her to walk home from school. They don’t whistle anymore, but they still watch as she walks the Ave’s like a super model on her own personal runway. Roxanne will be eighteen in a few months and Roxanne will have to trade in her blue jeans for a business suit of her own.
In the window across from love struck Roxanne, lives Marcus, Ketura, and Babygirl. Babygirl is their six-month-old daughter. When she was born they had yet to decide on a name, but when Mommy stopped by to pass down the crib that she had slept in and I had slept in and Prose had lolled in because she liked the way the night sky colored the spaces between each bar much more than she enjoyed sleeping, Mommy gave Babygirl the name of a queen. Born on the day of Granny Sauda’s passing, Babygirl’s given name is Danielle Sauda Hall. Sauda because it’s only fitting for a baby that looks doused in dark chocolate, Sauda because it creates a legacy of strength and power to be reborn in the future of the Ave’s, Sauda because, “It was simply the right thing to do,” explained Mommy, and Danielle after Daniel because everyone needs a good Christian name. Like my name, Zora, Sauda is the type of name one has to grow into. Until then, for her sake, I’ll call her Babygirl.
In the window below mine, and Prose’s and now Babygirl’s crib you’ll find the Viramontes women untangling their tresses. Angela pronounced Anhella Viramontes is in my grade and has been in my P.E. class for the last three years. Everyday, no matter what the occasion, she wears her hair in one long braid that she winds and winds and winds again until a neat bun rises above the nape of her neck like a freshly baked donut almost too perfect to eat. I hate the bun she wears to camouflage the curls. Our window walking has exposed a wave of thick black hair long enough to sit on and strong enough to swing from. If I owned her windstorm of hair I would spin in circles letting its length cloak me like a superhero's cape. I would frustrate my enemies by flinging my hair on their desk as they try to complete their vocabulary words during journal writing time. I would run my hand from scalp to hairs end and roll each strand around my index finger to get the attention of the cute older boys. I would brush it one hundred strokes a day to keep its shine like the fashion magazines suggest. I would wash it with strawberry shampoo and let the suds sink in until the entire bathroom smelled like the strawberry patches of Orange County. I would do so much if I had Angela’s, pronounced Anhella’s, hair but I would never, no matter what my sisters did, or mother said, or brothers expected, or father demanded, wrap it away from the eyes of the world.
Every Ave Apt has four windows that face the sidewalks paved up and down the Aves. Each window is a camera lens revealing a picture of the Aves' soul. When Prose and I window walk we’re photographers taking mental photos of untold splendor and burgeoning dreams. Prose often cups her hands into circles around her eyes. As if a top-secret spy peeking through binoculars, she spots her unsuspecting and always inspiring high profile targets.
When the sun has traveled to the base of the 405 and only the moonlight guides the path between the spread-too-far-apart streetlights with flickering bulbs struggling to stay alive. When the headlights have found their way and even some porch lights have sighted the last key in the lock, it means it’s time to return from our window walking tour. It is at this time that we can smell the aroma of the Aves. The orange and blue of gas flames lighting up on Sears’ layaway Kenmore stoves, working hard at stretching enough for two into a meal for five. It is at this time that the low ceiling of the Ave apartments imprisons the stove’s heat and the frying pan’s grease creating a screen of suffocation between the half kitchen, dining room, living room areas. Windows fly open freeing the smoke and smells and culinary creations to give sustenance to the starving belly of the L.A Aves. It is at this time that we head home. Prose grabbing my hand because she’s old enough to exist as an undercover agent and curious enough to watch Roxanne and her love kiss by twilight, yet she’s scared of the night sounds and shadowy images that accompany our return home. The humming in the street lamps seems louder, the arguments on the Ave’s are clearer, and the figures from the bus stop or the next block are threatening until they get close enough to reveal their familiar and kind faces.
When we get home Mommy is waiting on the porch. After every house cleaning and every window walking she waits and replies with the same lists of remarks. With our fingers behind our back we count down her catalogue of criticism. One, “Where have you been?” Two, “You better have not tried to cross that street at night.” Three, “You know it makes me uncomfortable when you stay out this late.” Four, “I don’t know where I got you two from.” Five, “Dinner’s ready, hurry inside.” And as we run up the stairs we stop at the doors edge to allow Mommy her one final statement. Six, “Girrrrllllsss, take those scruffy shoes off and don’t mess up the lines on the carpet.” We laugh, but never loud enough for her to hear as we acrobatically tiptoe around the carpet's edge.
About the author:
Ryane Nicole Granados is a Los Angeles native and she earned her MFA in Creative Writing from Antioch University, Los Angeles. She received her BA in English from Loyola Marymount University, where she also earned the Nikki Giovanni writing award. Her work has been featured in the publications PaniK, On the Brink, Dirty Chai and on-line magazines such as Role Reboot and For Harriet. Additionally, she teaches English at Golden West College and has authored her own student success manual entitled Tips from an Unlikely Valedictorian.