You can never go home again

31 Aug

My childhood home had been destroyed. I watched google map’s camera targeting an empty field, the location was the address of the complex I grew up in. Arcade Fire’s artsy website has you place your address and creates a plethora of naturalistic images around it, but all I saw were 50’s California style homes in front of a flat abandoned field.

Ah here it is I found it.

There in that empty field there once was a large complex surrounded by a red fence the tops of which were slanted downwards like stabbing knives. When you opened the gate and walked past the latino gangbangers you would then find find a second gate which you opened and this lead to a third interior gate.  Under a gloomy passageway the building opened up revealing the sky and two sets of stairs headed up and then to opposite ended balconies.  There were palm trees inside the building and outside it.  In the middle of the complex was a pool that remained a concrete hole that no one would fill in.

It looked like the house in the Karate Kid sort of.

I don’t know what it’s like to feel nostalgia for a home.  I would feel pangs of something if I went to visit my old elementary school.  I remember I once went to see it and my prevailing thought was that everything was so much smaller than I remembered.

I don’t think I would feel warm nostalgia for this lost home of mine because I think that even then I knew that things weren’t good, that there was nothing good or right or warm about this place besides the days I’d spend watching Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood with my grandmother as I rested on the yellow shag carpeting of our studio apartment.

The other striking memory that I have is one that seemed inconsequential.  My uncle had to house sit a neighbor’s apartment and also walk me to school, so he made me agree to get up super early to him to check on the apartment with the promise that he’d make pancakes at the neighbor’s house.  I was frightened and titillated to see a stranger’s home within that complex, what secrets were held there? What happened behind people’s hallways and under the dark overpasses? What did the scary boys do in the rear apartment buildings past the cars and near the dumpsters? All those secrets were gone, bulldozed, or killed in a fire, I’m not sure since we moved to a nicer place when I was around 13.

I did something just now that I hadn’t done in a while, I walked the path I used to walk alone to the city bus that would take me near school, although now I walked it on Google maps while sitting in my apartment in Brooklyn.

And I did it like I remembered mom doing it before I went alone.  Right on 102nd street, then right on Prairie, past my friend’s house, past my schoolmate’s house, past the building with the scary dog and past the Church’s chicken where a sign reading “Black Owned” hung…

And I did it just like that, but this time there was nothing.


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