I stand in front of my house. It is late. A cool night breeze tostles my hair and sends shivers down my back. It feels strange to stand outside my childhood home. It is dark and empty here. I dread the emptiness all of a sudden. The air is heavy and filled with sadness. It is this space, the house, yard and air – it all feels alone. It is empty.
When I would come home as a child I without fail the porch light would be on as my guiding light. If you were not too late you may even see a glow from the kitchen window. Now abandonment lays all around. Everything is in pain. The grass calls to me, asksing how I could leave it when I loved it so. I played with it every day. The grass was my best friend. We were one. We still are. I can feel our connection. It is sad that I turned my back on it.
I’ve been thinking about this place for years. It has always been my intention to return home. I didn’t think my return home would be due to my running away from my life but here I am. I always thought I would return home to be a teacher, that I would help my community. Now I’m here hoping it will heal me. Teach me.
While it is a cool night I have this desire to feel the grass. Plus I am not looking forward to what lies behind that locked front door. It is my grass. Not because of some land ownership law but because it knows me from all the times I’ve laid on it, danced on it, rode my bike on it, slid on it in the winter or when it chased me with dew on it’s fingers.
The grass and I share some bond. Avoiding the inevitable I lay on the grass and feel it’s coolness beneath me. It is soothing. I realize my eyes are closed. I feel silly and panic for a moment throwing my eyes open. Then I’m greeted with the stars. They surround me like warm joyful grandparents who haven’t seen their grandchild for so long. All is forgiven immediately and they are delighted I’m home. In their twinkling I can see all the times I sang to them, prayed to them, and spoke to them.
I draw my attention away from the stars and sense the yard has settled down. It’s suffering has eased. But the house looms before me. This dark cold hard structure.
I sit upon the grass and stare at it. I know I must go in. I know I have to face it. It has been unloved for so long. I’m afraid to go in and feel the feelings of emptiness all around me. The house will smell different being all closed up for years. It’s heart is broken. Can I fill it with love with just my being here?
I will make some bread. The smell of it will wake the house up. It will warm it. The footsteps will ground it again. When I sit down to eat the house will feel settled. It needs someone to live in it again.
I grab the key that I placed in my pocket. The one I touched a hundred times on my bus ride down. Touching it made what I was doing real. I couldn’t believe I was actually running away and going home.
I unlatch the storm door and swing it wide open to hook it on the little peg resting on the east side of the house. What a strange, yet simple, everyday thing for one to do. We only used our storm door occasionally in the summer unhooking it to protect our homemade plywood door from a storm that pelted at it. During the winter we used the storm door all the time not hooking it to the east wall until spring. The fact that we hardly ever did this makes me wonder how I remember to do it at all.
The strangest memory hits me as I place the hook in the ring.
I am running to the door to see if the boy was ready to come out and be in the sprinkler. My nieces and nephew were here and two of my sisters. We had all changed into our bathing suits behind a blanket on the clothesline at the back of the yard. Why hasn’t this boy come out from his change area behind the storm door. I run over to the door to see if he is almost done but I’m not careful enough. I run past the bit of door he was using as shelter and see he’s naked. I see his boy-bits and I am frozen. I’ve never seen boy-bits before. I knew there was a difference between boys and girls because we were often separated and we kind of liked different things. I had no idea that this was something I would see.
I stand forzen hold for a while. It feels like minutes and he quickly lifts up his swimming trunks and starts to get dressed all the while covering himself. He seems scared or nervous. I runaway confused. He follows shortly afterward and we both pretend it never happened but later I would tell Melinda.
Now I insert the key into my lock. I need to shake and jostle things just into place. I feel a click and then the door is loose from the lock that has held it captive to the world outside.
The door squeaks open a few inches and my nervousness is in full swing. What if there is a skunk sleeping on my bed or mice scurring all about? Shit! Why am I coming home in the dark?
I have nowhere to go. I must go in further. Using my cell phone as my flashlight I creep into the porch opening the kitchen door. I listen for the sound of little critter feet moving. Nothing. I don’t smell skunk in the air. I step over the threshold gently.
There is no power. There is no water. Planning to run away at the last minute, late at night, is now making me wonder if this was the best decision. I bring my bags to the bedroom and pulled back the covers on the bed that has been made for a decade. I shine my light on the sheets and see nothing crawling around. I don’t undress, crawling under the blankets hoping to just fall asleep. I need to distract myself from the fact that something might crawl around in the darkness while I sleep. I fill my mind with memories of sharing this room with my sisters and sleep comes fast to me and I would expect.