Tuesday, September 29, 2009
There was an old house.
No more than four blocks as the crow flew. Probably six as the fox ran.
It was filled with books. It was also a library.
The Houston Memorial Library.
I don’t know what I was to memorialize there. Maybe a confederate general.
They had book sales every now and then. Those sales felt the best when the fall light was coming in the widows. Cutting through the dust on the glass case. The case that had guns. Knives. A leather kidney shaped canteen. We’d have walked over crunching the magnolia leaves that covered the sidewalks in orange and brown herringbone. After the rains, we’d slip on them.
You could see out of the back to onto the side of a ranch house. The jilt of seeing a sixties car port while rocking on creaking floors with water stains made me think, for the first time, that there are two worlds. There’s this one, the one I’m in, that makes sense. And there’s that one, the truth. That heraldry has tawdry neighbors. And beyond the discolored drapes there was the truth.
As mom would look for books, I’d pretend that I was, too. That I read. That I was planning on having a hundred books of a hundred pages and a hundred bookcases full of words. I’d pull out one with a great spine illustration and Look at this one and my mother, bless her heart, would never be frustrated or short and would always tell me That looks really neat, Micah and I’d buy it for a dime and it would sit on my shelf and I’d never open it.
But if I did, I’d smell Houston Street. Fall in Alabama. Knowledge.
I miss that smell.
Thursday, July 9, 2009
I walked home from middle school.
Every day. Three miles or so. With my saxophone always and another kid named Clay sometimes.
I'd learned about entropy by walking along the train tracks. Because train tracks have already chosen the easiest path for me. I didn't have to make any decisions. Just walk in the center. Move if there comes a'train'a'runnin. Avoid eye contact with the two bums who might be along the route.
Once a girl from our middle school was raped by the tracks. Behind the Kroger. She said it was fine until they started taking turns on the evening news and I have no idea what happened to he after that. I don't even think I knew what rape was. I learned that from the tracks.
I learned that tar melts in the Alabama sun and it sticks to your shoes. Then, to your carpet.
I remember that smell of the wood. Tie after tie of hash marks. The days getting shorter and the tar sticking less.
When winter came, the world was no longer hidden past the trees - and I was no longer protected from heckling high schoolers who drove TransAms and wore RayBans.
They could into my tube.
Until I stepped onto the other side of the tracks. When the train came'a'runnin'.
Sunday, May 17, 2009
We'd lobbied for months.
A NES. That's what we wanted. We were young. And late to the game. Every other kid had one. We didn't. They were one hundred dollars. To a kid, that might as well be ten dollars or a thousand. We had no idea of what money was or where it came from. But we were well aware of the results.
A Nintendo. That's what you bought with money.
After the other kids having them for years, we finally got one. It was on a Sunday. We must have gone to Roses or KMart and walked in with a wad of cash that my parents worked to save and out with a box with pictures of gameplay, pixelated worlds of tomorrow. We imagined how much different our lives would be, there in the midde seat of our Dodge Caravan, hugging the box that held life, promise, cords, drving back home.
When we got home and threw open the van door, the van that had melted suckers in the mats, french fries in the vents, we ran up the porch. Bang. Bang. On the door. Mom's keys rattled as she unlocked the door with her keyring trinket farm that happened to hold three keys.
Our hearts sank.
Dad was watching Sunday afternoon football and nothing would change the fact that the one television we owned - the one black and white box that could unleash our dreams - was not ours for at least one more quarter.
Despite everything in the universe vying against us, we became electrical engineers within seconds of halftime starting. We learned how to connect the cables and find the channels and power up our future. For three minutes we stared at the Super Mario Brother intro screen, imagining all the colors that others saw. We were so moved we never started the game.
It was turned off for the start of the second half. After the game we had chores. We didn't play it that day.
But we'd seen the light. And there was no taking that away.
Tuesday, March 31, 2009
For years and years we have one television. It was a 13" black and white in an off black box. It had rotary dials and fine tuning plastic dials three in total and I bet it weighed something like sixty pounds.
There were rabbit ears it they got a great signal rarely and a decent signal frequently and there were times where the satellites would forsake our area and there would be the black and white static like Indians and Cowboys fighting it out in an eternal battle. Why wouldn't you fight if you didn't have any television to watch?
What I remember in particular about those days is if we'd turn the television on and off really quickly, there would be an explosion of light that would start after the power was off. It would get brighter and clearer than the picture ever was and it was a concentration of the finest neutron stars of the galaxy and they wouldn't show up on any of my friend's fancy televisions. But just on ours. And for the 4 seconds it would last, I'd stare into the thimble sized explosion and dream about a place far away in the future where I was important and famous and wouldn't sleep on Saturdays.
I'd think about how to prolong that radiance. How to make it brighter and bigger and to pull it out and to walk around holding my sunshine where everyone saw that I wasn't embarrased that we had the oldest heaviest picture tube in Athens, Alabama but that I had a gift that was better than Dallas.
As the dime sized flicker would fade away, I'd close my eyes and in my head that black and white would still be black and white but my brain would turn it to color and I'd be content always.