8pm

At 6:45pm a reminder went off that tonight was supposed to be Starlight Parade.
Before Covid-19.

Before innocent deaths due to complications.
Before innocent deaths due to bullets.
Before peaceful protests.
Before riots.
Before the mayor declared an 8pm curfew.

I should be sitting on a sidewalk in downtown Portland with the friends I’ve sat beside every year. There’s kettle corn, chips, and pizza. Kids blow bubbles, draw with chalk, and throw footballs (often too close for comfort). I buy a toy from a vendor. Last year it was an inflated unicorn that stayed up until a few weeks ago.

The reminder went off.
I went outside.

I wanted to walk my neighborhood, at least as much as I could before curfew. I carried my house key, driver’s license, debit card, and phone. Objects to make me feel safe outside my apartment walls. A podcast from Code Switch streamed through my headphones. The hosts trying to understand this week, finding as few words as I can.

Walking past parked cars in front of a home, I heard quick little footsteps behind me. Turning around, I saw a young boy, about five, coming up. He held a big, bright squirt gun above his head, like a sword or a wand. The curls on his head were just a little darker than his skin.

With a confident voice the boy declared: “I love you.”
Not sure how to respond, I responded: “Thank you. I really appreciate that.”

I continued on my way while the boy turned back to the clanking sound rising from one of the parked cars. When I passed that area again on the way back, the streets were empty.

The only other person I saw was a man and his dog. The sidewalks, lawns, and hospital lawn benches were empty.

We should all be in downtown Portland, leaving these neighborhood streets empty while we cheer and laugh.

I made it home just before 8pm. Safe (not sound).

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