Sunday, November 11, 2012

A Conversation

I pulled up slowly, apprehensively.  After all, it had been almost twenty-two years since I'd been in this neighborhood. I didn't quite remember which block the house was still on; many of the landmarks were gone.  A moment earlier I glanced at a flat, paved parking lot inhabited by police cars, realizing only after I passed it that the spot used to house the gas station I worked in for eighteen months during my college years here in Bowling Green, Ohio.

Finally, I saw it.  It looked about the same; the white clapboards hadn't aged much and the front porch had recently received a new coat of paint. I got out of the car and raised my camera.  I snapped several pictures, walking on the cracked, uneven sidewalk for a minute or two before the house finally spoke.

Excuse me, do I know you?

Yes, I said.  I lived here about twenty-five years ago, remember?  I took that large branch off your roof after the big ice storm.

Of course, the house said.  I remember you now.  I apologize for not recognizing you.  Your hair is a different color...gray. 

Among other things, I said, pointing down to the sixty or so added-pounds acccompanying me on this unplanned sojourn.

Oh yes, said the house.  I didn't want to say anything.

It's okay, I shot back.  It's been a long time since I've seen you too.  You look the same, except for the new stairs and the absence of that big oak tree.

That tree?  I miss it.  It had been here for many, many summers protecting me from the heat.  It finally came down a few years ago after a big spring storm.

I'm sorry to hear that, I said.  I liked that tree.

The house paused for a moment and finally asked me a question.

I don't want to pry, but you seem sad.

Yes, I said.  I wasn't a few minutes ago but coming here and seeing you has made me think about many people and things I haven't thought about in years.

Is it something you want to talk about, asked the house.

I stopped and thought.  How long had it been since I thought of old college girlfriends and roommates?  I still kept in touch with a few of them, but being here, now, in front of my college apartment of two years brought memories screaming, in a chaotic disarray, back to the present.

Uh, sure, I said to the house.

It's weird seeing you, I said.  Your stairs remind me of my friend Roxanne.  Do you remember her?

Yes, said the house.  She had such an engaging laugh and I remember her bounding up my stairs to see you.  Her smile kept me warm on many cold days.

Me too, I said. 

Well, she died three years ago and being here right now is...painful. I didn't think I would have this type of reaction...the thoughts that I'm thinking.

I'm sorry, said the house. 

Seemingly to change the subject the house spoke again, She had a second friend who lived here, didn't she?

Yes, I said.  Tabitha.

What ever happened to her, said the house.

I don't know.  After I graduated from BG I was supposed to have lunch with her one day.  But, something came up and we had to cancel.  That was twenty-one years ago and I haven't seen her since.

That's too bad, said the house.  You seemed to have fun with her and Rox.


How about that beautiful redhead that spent so much time here with you?

Yeah, I said.  I don't know what happened between us.  We just drifted apart...after I graduated we attempted to stay in touch but...I guess other things happened.

Oh, said the house.

What about the two Steves, do you still see them?

I smiled.  I see one of them.  As a matter of fact, I was in his wedding.  We're still friends and see each other about once a year.

The other one? 

No, I said.  The last time I saw him was the day that we moved away from here.

I'm sorry, said the house.

I started to think.  Me too, I said.

Well, you seem to be doing okay, I said.

Thank you, said the house.

You look good as well. Was your time here well-spent?

I think so, I said.  I learned alot...a good many things not in my classes, but here on this street.  After leaving here I moved to Hawai'i.  I came back after the same type of storm that took your tree took my island.  I'm glad I did because I met someone.

Oh, congratulations, said the house. I'm happy for you.

Well, it didn't last too long...but she gave me a son.  He's eighteen now and looking at colleges. As a matter of fact he's looking at Bowling Green.


Yes, I said. 

That would be nice, said the house.  Perhaps I'll meet him some day.

Maybe, I said as I put the lens cap back on my camera.

Well, I need to go, I said.  It was so nice seeing you again.

It was so nice to see you, said the house.  Please, don't be a stranger; my rafters are getting creaky, I'm not too sure how much time I have left.

Oh, I said, I'm sure you'll be around for many more years.  You're almost a hundred years old now, right?  And you still look fantastic.

Thank you, said the house.

I started to leave.

Wait, there's one more thing.  Your friend Roxanne?

Yes, I said.

Just remember me and you won't have any problems remembering her.

I smiled.

Thank you, I said.  I'm sad because she's no longer here.  But seeing you makes me remember her laugh and her smile.

Yes, said the house.  A house gets its warmth from the people who live within it.  When you were here, your friends and their laughter gave me so much warmth.  I felt needed. Like a real home.

Yes it did, I said.

With a smile I said goodbye and walked back to my car.  Thank you, I said.

Don't stay away for too long.  Will you bring your son here so I can meet him?

Of course, I said.

And I will.


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