Monday, October 14, 2013

You Can't Go Home

A small trip away from the city this weekend, with friends. To a rundown old camping ground at least 30 years past its prime. Took my first personal day off from work since I started the accounting crew gigs, over a year ago. Three days, two nights. In a cabin in the woods, surrounded by vacant cabins. I thought the small retreat would help stir my creative mind as I attempted to figure out my next project.

Both nights... I dreamed of work.

In this spartan cabin in the woods with no running water, I dreamed of processing fucking invoices.

Two nights in a goddamn row.

Sunday morning, I went on a coffee run with one of my friends. I started telling him about how close we were to where I grew up. I didn't realize just how close until he plugged my middle school into his GPS. We were minutes away from the place where I went to junior high school.

We drove there. To Pomona Junior High School. Gradually, I remembered little landmarks along the way. I remembered the curves of the roads.

There was a cop car parked at the school so we just drove by without stopping, but there it was. Unchanged from the outside.

And I knew if we were that close to my old junior high school, we were absurdly close to my old home.

It took me a second to remember the address where I lived from 5th grade to 12th grade.

This was the corner where I waited for the school bus on all those mornings. I dreaded waiting on that corner. I dreaded the sight, the sound, the stench of that big yellow bus lumbering over the horizon toward me. I hated school with a passion and that fucking bus was doom.  One morning, I slipped on a patch of ice at that corner; fractured my wrist and got a scar that remains today.  You want to talk about bad places?  This corner was a bad place.


This was our house growing up.

Painted a different color now, with a few more trees in the front lawn, but this used to be my home. My original fortress of solitude.

A ferocious flood of bad memories. Which can't be the complete truth. By no means did I have a happy childhood or adolescence — socially awkward and largely friendless — but this home was a sanctuary. My bedroom was my own personal panic room. I adored my summer vacations. I read books, watched movies, played video games, shot little animated videos, wrote my short stories. Wrote a lot of short stories that are largely lost. (Perhaps for the better.)

This house was built for our family. I remember visiting the architect with my parents, gazing at the blueprints, and dreaming of finally getting the dog that they promised I could get once we lived in a house.

I remember us visiting the house while it was still just a skeletal frame. We drove by it and there were some neighborhood kids on bikes out front. They flipped us the bird while we drove away. The Mancuso boys were fucking dick-holes. There were a few dick-hole neighbors.

Across the street from our old house was a nearly identical one. Where my younger cousins lived. Like most family, I'd lost touch with them years ago. We watched an older man putter about in his garage.

"Is that your uncle?"

"I don't know. I don't remember if they still live there."

"He looks Filipino!"

"Does he?"

"We should say hi!"

"No... I'm not sure it's them."

I told my friend to drive on. As we left, I was pretty sure that that *had* been my uncle. I'm not sure what good it would have done to say hello. I haven't seen my own dad in over ten years; why should I grace my uncle with my presence?

We drove past the small park where I kissed a girl for the first time. The parking lot was under construction and we couldn't go in, so we drove further down the road... to the church my family used to attend.

It was about 9:30am. All these people were probably attending the 9am mass.

We parked in the lot. I bummed a smoke from my friend and we stood by the car, smoking while I told my friend about going there for CCD, going through confirmation and how I just sort of stopped going to church somewhere during high school.

It felt grim revisiting these old places.  Like going on a ghost tour.  My immediate family's scattered to the wind and, for so many years, these places have only existed in my deeper memories.  Revisiting them superficially — and completely impromptu — left me feeling vaguely haunted.

This was no longer my home.  This hadn't been my home in many years.  If I ran into anyone I knew back in those years, they would not recognize me.  For this brief detour, it was as if I were a ghost, retracing an old familiar pattern in the ground.


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