I haven’t been home in over two years.
The air is thick in the city today. It’s steam inasmuch ambition and the obedience to fulfil it. Cars outside cut each other off, tempers simmer, people pass by in a rush. Go in, grab a bite, and always everyone else is in their way. Impatience, like a crown, and every car a throne in this kingdom of tail lights and burning petrol.
I’ve not turned the key to that old back door in years.
A guy sits down at the counter, two cups of coffee, gets up, walks around for about a minute, sits down. Talks to himself in bubbles. Seems like bits and pieces of TV. News, his thoughts on it, then the rest turns into gibberish. Homeless guy sifts through the trash, downs a half eaten sandwich, grabs an intact cup for a refill. Three soldiers sit down for a quick breakfast. Two old ladies chatter up a storm about stuff in Tagalog. A grandmother carefully cuts up portions in her grandaughter’s plate. More people pour in and order.
The food somehow tasted better back home.
I could drive North right now, through a sea of traffic and an hour later, I would be back there. Cooler air, smiling faces, people that feel good that it’s a weekend. Cars parked and not clogging tiny cul de sacs because folk live eight or more per house. Drive up that hill, right into the Heights, like I did so many times. Turn right, go down my old driveway, walk up those stairs, and as soon as that door opens, the world melts away. That stove always took a while to heat up, but the shag carpet felt great under barefeet.
I could look around and see a memory. Toys I used to prize put down carefully because it was lunch time. Always being stuffed full, and the smiling faces of two of the best people I’ve ever known. There’d be more too, if I just asked. A hug too, but I was given one any way.
It’s gone now. The key, the house, the driveway that led into what was all I wanted in life.
A bus pulls up, people get off. A mother scolds her son. The parking lot empties. A father walks his daughter; she has a pink ballerina outfit on. Traffic starts to snarl outside.
I’ll never fit in the city. Not many do. There is no real history here. Just move from place to place, drop rent, go to work, eventually move, all the while be unknown.
It’s not that anonymity is terrible. It’s a different place without a past, without a memory, and without a home.