Saturday, November 19, 2005

Making it Mine

Memory crawls in like a scorpion, tail flicking, whispering. This place is the same but with a condo instead of a parking lot. And without the box of wine, or whatever we could find. It is close to the mountain, cool of autumn, dry heat of summer and nearly colorless brush that the neighbor boy set on fire, half a dozen helicopters to douse the dry flames. Later, I smoked my first cigarette. Her backyard, stolen from the secret pack of a quiet smoker, few knew until he quit.

A drive around the block, from here, reveals slick pavement on bicycle at age six, yellow and banana-seated with basket. I hear screaming and see blood and a woman whose face I do not recall collecting me like a postage stamp, crumpled and running to a house, any house, telephoning my mum, a scar for remembering.

Now it's our old house, new folks there. Paint. Making it theirs, slowly, but unable to remove memory. Mine. The hole in the bathroom ceiling in the basement. My basement. Upstairs oblivious to what went down. Stairs. Creaky, but not creaky enough. A hideaway beneath the landing. For siblings and such. Girlfriends. A boy balancing on a railing. Falling. Falling in love. Or thinking about falling in love.

In the car again this time to Indian Hills Elementary School. New, but same name. With Aidan. "That's where Mommy went to school, like you'll do next year." She wanted to know about the playground, the slightly ominous building now squatting where we once ran ourselves to pieces, boys chasing girls. Girls screaming. Jungle gym and monkey bars. Metal, not plastic.

Breakfast to George's with sisters, niece and daughter--George's was Nick's now it's Demetri's. Waitress wanted to know what language "they" speak in New England. Didn't order a roundhouse--hash browns that Susan cannot find in Massachusetts, eggs then cheese, then meat. A pool of grease, a school day's hangover cure. Wood-paneled walls, no smoking now. Seems like these walls should ooze stale, high school smoke and grease, but they don't. Used to be once a week with the boys--one's in Texas now. One's in Colorado, as far as I know, with a wife and a couple of kids, devout. One married an ex-Mormon girl and started painting and sculpting--enough art for both of them. One went on to meet his wife at a Dead concert, happily married? And my boy, railing boy, the second of six boys and with a mother still breathing, ex-Mormon, now National Guard boy--wondering if he and his wife are in Iraq, but too scared to ask. For a roundhouse or a roundhouse and a half. And today, it's the girls. My four-year-old girl.

"This is the place," Brigham Young said while retching over the side of his wagon as he gazed upon the Salt Lake Valley--or so I've been told.

This is the place. My place. Whether I want it or not. Returning proves that I want it, that I want to own it. Returning is figuring out how to own it, to make it mine. It is making the voices mine. The air. The leaves. The foothills. The snow. The smog. The hymns. Church and religion. Winter sunlight. The whispers. All mine. Returning is the settling of the scorpion tail after its sting, the flow of memory. Paralysis, then ownership, but not death. In this case, there is no death. Temporary paralysis, maybe, but no death.



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