March 20

Garen M./Flickr
Garen M./Flickr

What precision, to reverse a wide truck down a street so narrow that the cars are already parallel parked halfway on the curb. It’s early morning, and I’m standing looking out of my second-story Dutch doors. Trim, middle-aged men in orange waterproof jackets drag the recycling bins toward the truck, then blithely lift them into the air like an uncle hoisting an infant.

After managing to back down my street without popping off a single rear-view mirror, the behemoth idles while the men return the empty bins. From my perch, I can see tulip magnolia petals on the truck’s roof—it must have already gone down Selwyn Road, with its blooming pink-and-white canopy. I’ve always associated a tulip magnolia’s coloring and heady springtime scent with places like Charleston and Chapel Hill, and to see the petals 3,000 miles away, along for the ride like an oxpecker on a rhino’s back, is a treat.

My vantage by the doors brought to mind an afternoon jaunt a few weeks back, when I looked down to watch the tipoff of the Cambridge–Oxford basketball game. This time I was reminded of life back home because, well, college basketball here is a lot like high school basketball in the States. From the top level of bleachers, in a small gym with at least five different sets of colored lines on the floor (tennis? indoor soccer? volleyball?), I heard the familiar squeaks of rubber on waxed pine and felt the crowd’s anxiety over every errant three-pointer. It was a warm afternoon, but still brisk enough that we were all grateful to cheer on Cambridge from within the humid gymnasium.

Basketball, though, always makes me think of deep winter (sweat stinging dry skin, static hair, and polyester shorts). It felt odd to bike away from the game into the late-afternoon sunset, noticing nascent cherry blooms and the tentative tulip magnolia buds ready for full bloom.

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Charlotte Salley is a former assistant editor of the Scholar.


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