I wrote this on 9/24/2001
I remember sitting with my grandparents under the green-apple tree in their back yard in the summer when I was very young and it was much too hot to be indoors. People didn’t have air conditioning then. My grandmother was alternately fanning herself and me with a church program or a little fan or something. We probably rode our bikes there. A mile on flat, shady, paved, calm old small-town streets with uneven sidewalks and little unfenced front yards and dogs barking somewhere on every block. This was not so terribly long ago, but things were different as they are always different when we think of something that could have happened yesterday and didn’t. It seems so close, so tip-of-the-tongue, and yet there is no way to reach back across that dimension to find those people in that place. The tree is gone. The grandfather is gone and the grandmother admits she counts every additional day she gets as a blessing from God. Hell, I’m gone. So frustrating, so incredibly tantalizing, these memories, and just no way to set things right once they pass us by. It seems so real and so close. These are the things that come to me in dreams during those traumatic periods when i realize i have no roots, not much of a safety net andthe sketchiest outline of what other people call “family.” I wake up, confused and thinking the dream was real and everyone’s really out back waiting for me. And then it hits me and I just want to sleep again, to call it all back, just for a little longer, please.
I used to lie awake at night, unable to sleep, wondering where all the time went. I was too young to be thinking those things, probably. It’s not the sort of thing you can ask a parent or a teacher about, one of those secret things that apparently adults know and never talk about with anyone. Not themselves. Certainly not with children, considering once some adults figure out what’s going on they can barely hold themselves together. To this day nobody’s actually told me adults keep secrets to themselves, but it must be so. They immerse themselves in religion, climb mountains, walk on coals, looking for “mysteries” when really the deep secrets of the world are wrapped up in the truths they cannot even admit to themselves in daylight. I am afraid I’m going to be one of those people who dies wishing he’d done more. I keep thinking I’m fixing that but everywhere I turn is some opportunity I’ve missed, some relative or friend I haven’t seen enough times, drinks not drunk, bones not broken, fights not won or lost, stories never told, magic never set loose. I suppose this scares me the most.