On May 14, cycling to Santa Cruz, I stopped at the park in Felton, tilted my face up to drink, at the edge of the grass. A car door shut, a tall, broad-shouldered man in a blue shirt, his skin polished bronze, black hair in a braid down his back, held a bulldog wearing a harness vest, its legs limp, like a marionette's, unable to carry its weight. "Is he recovering?"
A full-faced, half-sorrowed smile flooded the man's eyes, crinkled his face like wind wrinkles sand. "No, he's old, has trouble walking, but loves people, so I bring him to the park. He sits and watches, is happy."
Children carrying glittered gift bags and balloons streamed by, calling each other, their voices castanets. As the dog was pulling him towards the park's heart, the man beamed, nodded his goodbye, made the sky bluer, the light sharper.
My country is where the man with the bulldog lives. His smile was sweet, like white grapes when I'm tired and thirsty, warm, like the air at noon after the sun has cleared the coastal fog. I should have learned their names.