Years ago I called this street part of home. Now it seems small and narrow. Then again, my world has grown so much since I lived here. Back then I could barely imagine a world larger than this city. As a child everything seems intimidatingly big. Even the daycare center I just walked past seems tiny, just beyond it the roofed over shopping street barely large enough to house a few basic shops. When I was a child, it seemed large and intimidating, big and luxurious. The town I live in, I've always lived here, from my humble first steps back here to an apartment in the city center now. With every year that passed by, the city feels smaller and smaller, more comfortable and more known.
It's relatively early, but it's already getting warm, the sun is low and the streets themselves are only partially in the sun's heat. It hasn't rained in a few weeks, the air dry. There's a bit of sand everywhere. It only takes a tiny breeze to blow it from the shrubs and trees, the gardens and fields onto the street. Every step I take, I hear it crunching below my feet. The shrubs and trees though are still green. The kind of lush green only an early summer can provide. A green that seems to radiate. This early in the day the plants are still filled with optimism, their leaves stand proud and full of hope. Standing close to one of the houses, the coolness of the night radiates from it.
The houses have their blinds closed, there's no sign of life, except the occasional car passing by. Rare enough that one will actually notice, not faded in the mesh of background noises usually shrouding the city. Almost a comforting reminder that time still flows. The rare quiet quality of a summer's Sunday morning. The sun shines on the back of my neck, its heat is still comfortable now. My shoes still feel the cold from the brick road they stand on. Though I can't imagine that will last long. It's easy to see how fast the sun moves, the lines on the road visibly shift and the view widens. The sky is gradually turning to a deep dark blue. The air is still fresh and it feels vibrant. The first signs of life appear, birds are scuttling between the bushes, searching for a breakfast of early bird insects. Life starts up.
There's a bench, I must have sat there a thousand times already. From when I played with kids in the street, when a child came over to play from school. My first kiss. And also the first time it felt narrow and I started to doubt whether I felt at home here. Now I sit here again as more and more memories flood back into my mind. Though I might sit here to reminisce, this view on all these front doors feels voyeuristic. Watching how others wake up, men and women in their pyjamas open the blinds. Some entirely, some just the top part. Some with wet hair fresh out of the shower, some with hair going every which way. Stoves go on to cook an egg, make tea and various smells spread around, coffee, fruit, fresh bread.
It's starting to warm up in the sun and although I find some comfort in the shade of a tree, it only partially covers the bench, as the morning progresses, I see the shade shrink. Doors start to open and people come out. Some go out to exercise and several variations of sport clothes pass by. Many notice the curiosity of my presence, people respond in various ways, from a friendly nod, to a filthy look, sometimes entirely apathetically, I just look back with a friendly smile. Most though don't even notice I'm there. The shades open entirely. I stretch my legs and walk a circle. In a style common in the Netherlands I can see through the house to the garden. Almost all are bright green patches of grass. Some are paved over, overwhelmingly grey. A rare few are filled with plants.
I find my way back to the bench as the people that left to sport gradually return, some freshly showered, others still sweaty. They head back inside. The people move in waves, at its crescent there's brief but constant clapping of doors. As the morning progresses the same harmony reappears as car doors open and close and garage doors and bicycles are moved around. People leave as the street returns back to silence. This time the constant noise of the cars are a source of heightened sense of alert. While visually the calm of the morning seems to have returned, the noise changes the mood. The birds are quieting down as we're approaching noon.
The optimism of this morning is nowhere to be found, the leaves are hanging. The sun's heat is unrelenting, no cloud in sight. Only the trees and their static shadow an option for reprieve. I lean against one of the trees but regardless, beads of sweat form on my head. Over the constant background noise the cars provide the sounds of insects can barely be made out. Impossible to say where they come from or what they're trying to say. The heat is simply disorienting, It's a struggle to think. Though soon enough we're sliding into the afternoon, the sun relents a bit and shade grows longer again. I walk around again. I put my hand on one of the houses, it's really warm but it doesn't hurt just yet, although it's uncomfortable enough to quickly let go again. I notice, the air no longer feels fresh. I have to breathe deeper, laced with care-fumes, there's a distinct smell to it. I'm surprised by how quick it changes.
Uneventful the day passes and after-noon starts to wind to its end. Cars and bicycles arrive back at the houses and everybody gets out, tired by the day's impressions and activities. There's a sloppiness to the way the doors open and shut, the sound no longer crisp and sharp. Again stoves turn on and this time a cacophony of herbs and spices and the smells attack my nostrils. Each one more pronounced than the other, the air is thick with it. Small plays play out in each of the houses, a pace and movement, setting of tables, complicated looks, a sense of exhaustion. There's a rhythm in the movement, some houses move with a pleasant cadence, a smooth rhythm, others are acute, sharp, uncoordinated.
As the baton is passed to evening, the monochromatic blue skies give way to palets of purple, yellow and red. Shadows so long the street is no longer covered. Finally the sun's rays release me. For a moment I feel cold, but pleasantly so. As the evening progresses everything radiates, houses still feel warm to the touch. The plants seem to slowly recover. Lights turn on as the evening rituals proceed. Life continues at the dinner table and sometimes it moves to the couch. As the evening progresses, some lights are slowly turned off and over time all the blinds close again. The streets though are still busy, cars still providing their constant anxiety. As the last blinds close over the last rays of the sun, it's time to go home again, another home though.