Notre Dame of Years Past

The bus stop was down the street and a little to the left. We step-off and on to the dirt fading in to grass and out on the uneven neighborhood streets. Letting our feet lead the way that our eyes guided, home we were bound for. The first step in was the right turn off the busy road, the last of the busy roads and the succession of roads know only through bus windows, and taking a high view in of the places I’ve know by my own hiking-curiosity through the years. Those feet on broken streets and the dust transitioning it to the grass, the same kind of grass that browns outside while the heat and haze of summer keeps us in, and the same grass covering the steep hills between the porch outside the house of my little neighborhood.

To streets running parallel, or one to be exact, and I’d make my way along one standing tall between two lying flat. I can still remember the houses that I would see for scenery every day, and find it funny that I never knew those who called them home or those who could see me pass outside their window daily. There was one that was orange and another blue, and one that was white after an open “field” bigger than one I had ever knew. It would be funny to see what’s in quotation marks and compare it to the empty spaces I’d grow and know, but then it was large, sun-scorched, and only counting days between when it was cut. Closer now and that field cut to depletion, and an immediate neighbour of mine plotted behind us and across from a friend. My friend, too, had land so large and spacious but covered in living grass. Life marked their feet all over it, pressing prints of folded blades of grass, but I’m getting ahead of the younger me walking down the lane. My friend’s home and my bitter neighbor’s, two parallel like beams of a finish-line, were the last things I crossed before the fence. With legs of boards like piano keys and a trellis for a shirt, this long guard of our backyard was the next plunge deeper in to the comfort of home. A big tree I would never climb, an above-ground pool seemingly broken and needing repair as a spring tradition, and the white grid of stones making a patio….. it felt like a front yard more than a back one.

Near the corner, the closest corner to my approaching nostalgic youth, was my mother’s garden. There was time when that neat rectangle, where tomatoes and beans would grow, was just more of the yard, but my father turned the earth and soon what grew there was from the seeds chosen and not the weeds randomly thrown in. One thing stood taller, whether planted or a happy accident, with yellow leaves and black seeds turned to the sunlight. I remember those because I had never seen them so wild before and still haven’t since, and because from the house or in the yard you only saw their backs. They grew from the earth and turned their faces, no eyes to be seen while they squinted against the brightness and took in the warm glow from wherever they felt it. From the outside, from the street, for the child heading home hopeful because it was better than school but coming to grips with the misery bleeding in to the comfort, their faces and attention were there like a Hershey bar to a bastard.

The file of youth in the cabinet of my head is as well organized as a recounter might prefer, and as a result a might be putting sentences together with words from different stories, but there’s still accuracy in each of the letters, each of their collectives, and as a result an accuracy to the purpose they’re committing and the sentence they feel they deserve. Even when my friend moved away and the new neighbors repainted the window borders black, or when the house formerly known as my home was sold to someone new, I still have enough of it in my head that it’ll never be gone forever. I’ll keep that, because if a whole world can disappear just because it was a different time and place then what meaning would anything ever have?

Act Three…

You come through in a battered car that doesn’t make the journey in one go. There are days, and nights too, when the engine fails and it has to be pulled over to the side of the road with a frustrated and irresponsible hand-over-hand guiding the wheel there. The passing cars go by while we pull the scraps together just to buy us enough of a grade to make it a couple of more miles down the road, maybe to the next town should there be luck in the air we’ve done nothing to deserve. This litany at roadsides, under scorching heat giving blurry heat vapor edges to the drawn-up world around us or the nights without a heater but plenty of lights yielding sick-inducing headaches, gets the seven of us nowhere and exactly where we planned to be.

It never breaks down because it was never really together, and somewhere out there a zombie still has hands as active as any ever were on the wheel. The wheels were rolling slow and cruising last I saw them: as directionless as a glacier and with far more parallels. I could have kept my shoes intact had I kept my hand off the door-handle and my ass along for the ride, but even though holes would open like starving mouths while my sockless feet salivated as if either them had any kind of semblance of a last meal to punctuate the sentence we started on the blankest page I’d ever seen, I’d rather walk. Walk on the yellowest, most water-damaged, aged, and long-lost page any mis-combined set of uninspired words had ever formed on. I didn’t have a map, and after having only ventured with maples road-trippers I didn’t even realize what they were. It would be a long time before blue-grey-green with a flicker of yellow eyes even navigated me to the hand-holding of a GPS, but I got there.

I walked, and when I could I got my hands and feet on a bicycle to cover the ground to the distant shoreline. The larger the distance grew behind me the smaller the hands holding and shaping my life seemed to become, and while the distance created that illusion I could see for the first time that the illusion was always alluding to itself with every little contradiction in the back of my mind. Every time a voice I didn’t know told me something felt wrong, or that every repeating block and intersection felt like inching towards atrophy instead of a milestone or trophy, the façade weakened and the curtains blocking the window to the world thinned a little more. The trash bags blocking the rear-seat windows were only a view in hindsight and that was the only way I was looking back. Even if I had to walk a flat tire or take the bus I wasn’t quitting, because while they say to never look back with a positive tone I don’t think anything makes you feel more at home then seeing have far the roadside you left behind opines against you even now.

Graphicacy came, and it came because the voice in the back of my head was my own. It was unrecognizable after a lifetime of not speaking in that tone, and when it started coming out of my mouth I marked a spot and started for it. It moved, then moved again, and moved, moved, and moved again. It’ll keep moving and when I reach the end of the concrete I’ll swim or sail. I don’t think you need to move the globe to find your spot, but when you hate the way it’s been going for you you have to end that something to find something that works.