I am standing next to the wall that divides our backyard from the yard of the house next door. The wall, built by the owners of the other house, is high. The brick, once painted white, has black stains from the humidity that creeps up from the ground and spreads across it in widening blotches like billowing clouds with ancient veins. Bits of sandy red are splattered along the bottom where rain throws the clay earth against it.
The house has no air conditioning. Few houses do. The high slanted terra cotta ceilings, burnt sienna floors, and brick walls covered with plaster and green whitewash are no match for the endless days of heat and sun. The fans that hang above the beds help to circulate the air, but do not prevent a sweaty nights sleep.
The only respite from the heat is the shade from the giant mango tree whose branches span the far end of the backyard, and the cluster of overgrown citrus trees, a short distance from the faucet protruding from the wall about two feet off the ground, next to where I am standing. Leaning against the wall, I wait for water to trickle out from the faucet and fill a blue plastic tub about 20 inches in diameter and 6 inches high. Actually, I just need to cover the bottom of the tub; enough water for a seven month old to sit in and play. But the time it takes to do this drags on.
As I lean against the wall, just out of reach of the four o’clock sun, I wonder why the water pressure is so low in this affluent neighborhood. I languidly shade my eyes and survey the spot where I will place the tub, under the trellis, on the stone floor that is now an animated quilt of irregular patches of sunlight filtered through the prism of leaves and bunches of ripening grapes that dangle just within reach overhead.
At this moment, it becomes easy to begin to enumerate comparisons with another life that I am used to and reflect on the multiple forms of discomfort and small collisions I maneuver daily on my visits here. But as I start to slip into this frame of mind, something stops me in my tracks. I pause. There it is. An overpowering perfume permeates everything. “What is that?”, I wonder each and every time, as I circle the backyard with my eyes and follow the scent until my upturned head catches a glimpse of the wispy green leaves and profusion of tiny white flowers of the jasmine bush cascading over the wall just above my head.
“Oh,” I think, as I breathe in the Edenic fragrance. “I guess it’s worth the wait.”