(I meant to finish and post this awhile ago, but forgot, and I just found it again and thought what the hell)
Lying in the darkened room in my dad and Wendy’s house in Portland--they have blackout drapes now, which I would have loved as a teenager--I can’t help but think about myself.
Tallulah and I were visiting for a week. She was seven in July, an age I somewhat remember. When I was that age, we were living over on 53rd Street. It has become a mythic time, which probably would have been an ordinary life, had my sister and I not gotten suddenly, drastically uprooted. At age 11 and 9 people don’t usually have much control over their lives.
This summer we went back to the house for the first time, Tallulah, my dad and me. It was not so much a place as a primal scene. We parked in the neighbors’ driveway. (Our old neighbors, the Longshores--it seemed possible that they would appear, though they’d been gone even longer than us.)
The new owner comes out, jovial--“Wish I could say it was for sale!” We assure him we’re not in the market. Tell the story, in brief. He offers to show us around. He already knows some of the story. Apparently my mom turned up at his doorstep twenty-five years ago. He remembers her. He remembers her talking about how she kicked her husband out, made him live in the room in the garage. (It looks like the flowering cherry tree that bent over the driveway, dropping its impossibly fluffy blossoms like a soft carpet, is gone.)
“I’m the husband,” my dad says.
The man guffaws heartily. He shows us into the room in the garage, crammed with things all around the edges.
“My wife’s dying.” He says this matter of factly. “When she’s gone, I’m going to change all this.”
I know it’s a cliche, but everything’s so much smaller.
Soon, we meet the wife--a slumped figure across the room (suddenly the distances seem big again), squinting, possibly deaf. Dying of heart failure.
At the last minute, as we’re leaving, the man rushes back into the house and comes back a jar of pears--pears from the yard, canned by his wife.
“I gave your mom some of these too, when she came—and she cried,” he said.
I left the pears on the kitchen counter in Portland, ambivalent. Maybe eating them would tie me to that place forever. Did I want that, anymore? Or maybe they would give me back some of the time that the self I left behind, would never know, had lived.