A Walk in the Park

I took a walk today, here at the industrial park. I walked down to the beach with my escort, an older man named Manolo, the maintenance man for this facility. They won't let me go anywhere alone; the company here is responsible for me, and they are a proud people. I am their guest; I am escorted wherever I go.

Three days so far, investigating the manufacturing plant, establishing their state of compliance with regulation after rule after weary, drawn-out requirement. We're all a bit tired of it, and the plant people, they're worried about what will come of my audit, about what I will say about them.

Their worry and the audit wears on me, and I take some time to walk downhill from the plant, to the water's edge. The waves breaking here have worked their way north all the many many miles to this southern shore; all the way from Venezuela, with nothing to watch them but the occasional tramp steamer and solitary bird.

Manolo knows why I came down here. He doesn't buy my excuse that there might be an outfall down to the beach that no one knows about, but Manolo doesn't care. He does his job with quiet competence and is overlooked by us all when concrete lies underneath our feet. In that domain, in the plant, he is the least of the least; just another worn old black man cleaning up after the lighter-skinned folk.

Things change on the beach. I relax a bit and the sediments and waves take me back to my early lessons in geology and I explain—kindly using small words—that the jagged beach rock at our feet will some day give way to a nice soft sand.

Manolo looks at me as though I am crazy. "Well, of course!", he says. "It has always been that way. Come with me, Mike and I'll show you. Look at this rock here. Did you know that you can read a rock like a book?"

And so we spend the afternoon together down at the water's edge, away from fluorescents and solvents and the accountants and their soft hands, talking about the way the world works, the way the real world works, the world that means so much to Manolo and I. We are, briefly, twin sons of the earth mother parted by time and space until now. And then it is time to go back to cement steps and paper walls and artificial barriers built from the need to better ourselves, to feed our loved ones and to starve our souls.

My walk has ended and Manolo and I part and walk our solitary paths into the futures we have built, better off now for having shared the rocks and the sand and the depths of speculation for one simple, splendid afternoon.

—J. M. Munsil