They say you cannot go home again, although I have never had occasion to meet them.
I’ve never been one to follow the dictates of them, unless they were my parents or spouse, and in the case of my parents, often not even when they demanded it, so I went back to the home of my childhood, a shockingly new place as I remembered it, setting the neighbors astir as they saw it go up and out.
It, like I, am older now, but seemed to have borne time far more harshly than I.
I do sometimes have a gait to accommodates arthritic knees, move a bit slower than I imagine, but the house seemed to be looking for its cane knowing it would soon enough require a walker, and I knew that while I could go home I’d be happier if I didn’t.
I was twelve at the time, would have chosen to be anywhere but there. I hated visiting her at home, but this took my disgust to a whole new level. We were never close, never would be, she so old, so old world, so unlike anyone I had known, so like the women sitting outside the old hotels on South Beach waiting for a wave or death, whichever first flowed in, life having long ebbed. The room as I remember it was barren, bleached to a lack of any color, the bed a white frame, white sheets, a small white indentation staring up at the ceiling, up at heaven, and everywhere what I imagined were steel bars through which we and the doctors and nurses could pass, but which held her tightly within, serving out what remained of her ever shortening life sentence.
My grandson has a smile that is as old as time itself, as young as the mind of a four-year-old and in this moment, beaming, I am left to guess which it is, for he won’t say, and so I smile with him and time has no meaning, no beginning, no end.
The introductions were relaxed but complete as befits three people in a small room, she the linchpin knowing each of the others, utter strangers to each other, save in her stories. The men stared at each other gently ensuring the other saw only a smile for the better part of two minutes, basking in the silence that introductions demand. “I am really surprised,” the older man said, “it is truly odd, but you look at absolutely, exactly like what I imagined the adopted son of Isadore Myers would look like not more than 30 seconds ago.” “It is truly odd,” the younger man replied, “you look nothing at all like the man I met in this room not a second more than a minute ago, and why, pray tell, is that woman over there smiling?
She said, “you so don’t fit in there, everyone’s going on eighty except those can only see it in their rear view mirrors.” “Perhaps,” he said, “but I’m fairly sure I’m on the very young side of things, and it’s nice being the kid in the crowd once again. And anyway, it’s a comforting thought that when the ambulance makes its daily appearance I’m the least likely to be in it.” “Unless,” she laughs, “the others Hear you saying things like that, crochet needles can be lethal you know.”
Once I was six foot four with long blond hair that would have made Fabio jealous, but sadly I woke up. Now in the mirror I am a balding five foot six, middle aged man who wants only to return to the me of my dreams.
I sit outside, on the mesa having watched the mauve, fuchsia and coral sky finally concede to night. The two orange orbs sit twenty yards away, staring back and in this moment coyote and I have known each other for moments, and for generations, and we are content. Coyote tells me he was once an elder living in the old adobe buildings, how he was a shaman, still is, with his magic, and I tell him of how I walked for years in the desert, food appearing from heaven, of how I crossed the sea and some thought it parted for me. Coyote and I are both old and we know we each have stories that no one would believe, and so we are left to believe each other and tell our stories to the sky gods.
Each day I am certain something more slips away, forgotten, no longer able to be recalled, lost in the vast abyss of yesterdays. I would like to think this happens because something new, something better has taken its place, and I had no choice but to displace it. That is the convenient story I tell myself, although I am rarely convinced, and know that there is a good chance it is no more than a lie of sorts, but one that will slip away and be replaced by something better, or perhaps I will just forget that it was a lie in the first place.