The air smelled like grapes, even on a Wednesday. Steamy though it was, my movement was not constricted by the extreme amount of moisture just hanging in the trees. I knew walking would have been heavy; wooden legs, thicker hair, weighted clothes all caused by the humidity. The sensation may have been an illusion brought on by an overactive imagination, but still. It was August.
Biking, however, presented a kind of freedom from the perceived swamp, and provided an opportunity to glance around and take in the surroundings. The leafy trees overhead. The empty apartment buildings. The fact it was trash day. And the lone rocking horse, of the same family or manufacturer as the one that resided in my grandparents attic when I was a child. My rocking horse, at least for a while. It was a simple creature, made from unadorned rounded pieces of wood, soft to the touch. It had beaded glass eyes without pigment or irises, and a flat, loveable face, sanded to smoothness and rounded to a shape primed for imaginary flights from witches, robbers, pirates, or to urge on to go and chase Indians. (Sorry, Native Americans.) Its mane and tail were simple wool, dun-colored, unassuming, unbraided.
This rocking horse was not bothered by the weather, unconcerned with the temperature. It did not care about the season, the month, or whatever scent may have been pervading the street. It just sat, askew. Its eyes gazed out onto the road, the puddles. It sat by a trash bag. It waited.
I looked at it just once, traveling somewhere around 10 mph, pedaling, burning my approximately 16 calories per minute. I was listening to music and could not hear any sounds that morning, but I thought, and I looked and I glance away, concerned with the odd passing car, or the odd individual, in every sense of the word.
Then I turned the corner and the air didn’t smell like grapes anymore. I smelled industrial scents; exhaust, hospital food, that sickly smell that emanates from the brick’s pores at every hospital building. I smelled chilly and false air conditioning, cleaner and an almost empty fridge. I meant to go back down the street that smelled like grapes and rescue the rocking horse, but when I left work I was too fatigued and industrialized to think of nothing more than to emerge into the sunlight, shed layers and return home.
The next day it rained.
I didn’t bike that route until the following week and when I returned it was no longer humid.
The rocking horse was gone.
“I didn’t need these things. I didn’t need them.”