Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Remember that place with those people that one time?

I'm not sure which way the ballet studio was. I danced there almost every day for ten years, you'd think I'd know, but so much has changed. Buildings torn down, new ones in their place, there are some things Americans aren't sentimental about.

Across the street is a gap where a building was recently demolished. My mind skims over the space. Maybe it was in the next block? I cross the street to look more closely as I pass. The one with the boarded-over windows?

It's only when I'm almost on top of it, when I see the red star with the arrow pointing up, that my brain admits it. That's where the stairs were. I trudged up them a thousand thousand times, my flight bag with rolled pink tights and black leotard. I don't remember, then remember the red star.

Memory slips out of my hands like a fish. I lean toward people over a certain age. Do I know you? I want to ask.

In my last post I wrote about my dad speaking his name and birthdate to enter the gallery, but this is a borrowed memory. My sister remembered it when we went to the gallery together. When she described it, it came to life in my head, but could it have come alive even if it wasn't true? A family story told and retold and shaped and rounded until it becomes the story of the story, the moment itself long lost.

I walk through my old neighborhood, down the steep slope of Apple Avenue, winding through the tree streets: Locust Lane, Ash Avenue, Cherry Lane. There the J's house, they had a zipline in the back garden and a parlor where you couldn't bring food. There R's house, who I broke up with because of his body odor, which maybe wasn't bad but set off bad chemical alarms in my head. There the house that stood empty, where B and I made out before he crashed his motorcycle and died. Was it the house? Or was it the one a block over, with the new siding and the melting snowman?

My brothers used to make fun of me for saying, I remember! to stories that took place before I was born. But I remembered the story, the Super 8 movie clip, they way we told each other the story so often that I could see it as though I'd been there, the ghost of me, dragging the memory forward through time.

I have tea with a childhood friend, and this isn't something I can forget, the ease we have with each other, the connection, still strong, somehow still strong, though we grew apart in elementary school. We grew apart, is what I always said. We grew apart, even though he lived across the street. I say it to him now: We grew apart, when I went to France, and he looks at me. No, he says. That wasn't what happened at all. He tells me my parents thought I was spending too much time with boys, I didn't have enough friends that were girls.

And my world shifts. The story I'd told myself was different, it changes now, edges toward tragic, answering the ache in my heart whenever I remembered my friend.


Geo said...

Memory is never "scrupulously truthful" and yet somehow it always, always is.

lansky said...

love your prose. the way it deals with equivocation. two truths at once. more than that. a gap, a fish, a ?

the photo star with arrow points up. cool!