I took a drive by the old house last night. I drove through town and saw some of the old places. I drove by the park and saw the opened gate on East Meadow Avenue. This reminded me of the times when my friends and I would run around and be nothing else, except for young and crazy. It has been a long time since then. It’s been too long but still, I remember this all very well.
The Meadow Dairy doesn’t look the same anymore. And Fig’s Deli closed. This was sad to see. Fig’s was the place to go. And it’s not the food so much that I miss. It’s the nostalgia that hits me.
I went through so many changes in this little town. I left the neighborhood as a troubled youth and came back clean. I remember the last time I was in our the home. I was the only one there. I closed the door to my old bedroom. I thought about the secrets that lay within those walls. Some of the secrets are things that I write about, others are secrets that will never be told.
I swear there is something to this. There is a spirit to the home, in which it remembers us. I could feel this when I drove passed the house last night. There have been so many changes to the town between stores closing and the cosmetic facelifts. The streets have stayed as they are but the landscapes are a little different. Friendly’s is gone now. I remember getting ice cream there and the Fribble too. Remember the Fribble? This was the large milkshake we’d get and I swear, back in the day, there was nothing like it.
I was so young then. We all were.
I thought about some of my old friends. I thought about Jeff when I drove by the baseball fields on Merrick. I thought about Jeff and then thought to myself, “Goddammit Jeff, if I’d have known that phone call would have been our last, I’d have called you right back just to tell you “I love you” one more time.
I thought about Tommy as well. I thought about the way it was when he passed. He was him and I was me. And I get it. This is how it goes when two people are on different sides of a lifestyle. I thought about Tommy and the way he was. He was always smiling, he had a contagious smile too. Everyone loved Tommy, including me.
I thought about the fields across from the old house and the stores we used to go to. I thought about the times when Christmas rolled around and the skating rink was open. This was in the plaza outside the only tall glass building in the town at the time, on Earle Ovington Boulevard. I swear we thought we were the princes of our town. I don’t think I believed we would ever grow old.
I guess I was wrong.
I thought about Joe and Dorian. I thought about Mike. I thought about Randy and his van. I thought about Jay. And I thought about my attempts at love, or at least what I thought was love. I thought about the lessons I learned and the losses I faced. I took a few beatings along the way. I suppose I’m not alone with this. Everyone takes a beating at least once or twice in their life. I know I did.
I thought about the people that have come and gone, and the way we all split apart. It was enough to make me teary eyed. I wondered what they would think. I wonder what my old teachers would say if they could see me now. I especially wonder about the people that put me down or predicted the worst for me.
Could you imagine?
Could you imagine if they were here to see this?
Maybe some of them would be proud. Maybe some would think these are good things that I do. Maybe others would still have their doubts, which, I would understand.
I don’t know, Mom.
I just don’t know.
I have this dream sometimes. I’m a kid again. I’m riding on a bicycle through the streets of our town. The houses are exactly as I remember them. Some of the backyards have sheets drying on a clothesline and the air is new, like it is in springtime.
There are times I wish I could walk in the front door of the old house and sit at the dinner table. I could sit with you and Pop and tell you all about the things that are going on with me. I wish you were here to see this. I think you would both be proud. At least I hope you’d both be proud.
Sometimes . . .
Sometimes life is like a race to get through a door before it closes. I feel this way.
You know? And it feels like time can run out at any given moment. Then I become anxious and I worry.
Will I ever pull this off?
Will I only come so close? Will I miss when the moment of truth comes?
Or, will someone look to reveal the secrets of my trick? And there I’ll be, sad and exposed.
I’m not saying any of this is rational, Mom.
I’m just saying these are my thoughts from time to time.
You know, there might be an opening for me. There might be something big happening in my life right now, and as great as it is, the old narrative pops into my mind. And we both know how unhelpful the old narratives can be.
This all comes down to confidence. This comes down to the understanding of self-worth. This comes down to me believing in me, but in all honesty, regardless of my age; how can a boy be confident in himself if he doesn’t have his Mom around to tell him “Everything is gonna be okay, son.”
I was thinking about your mashed potatoes. I was thinking about what they would do for me right now. And your chicken cutlets. And the gravy. I’m sure they could stop the tears, the fears, and any other discomfort I would have at the moment.
I haven’t asked for a sign in awhile. I might have had one. But who knows?
I saw a car with a New Mexico license plate when I was driving over the bridge yesterday. I admit it. Sometimes, I’m just a kid. And sometimes I need help. Sometimes I need encouragement. Sometimes I need a break and sometimes, I just need you to tell me, “Everything is gonna be okay.”
It’s just not the same when this comes from someone else.
For now, all I have is this. All I have is this note, which I’m sending out to the universe with hopes it gets to you. I’m sorry that I haven’t been in touch for a while. Sometimes, I forget myself. Sometimes, I lose track of time. But I’ve never lost my love for you or Pop. And I’m trying, Mom. I really am.
I hope you can see this.
God, I hope so.
Gotta go now Mom.
I have some grown-folks business to take care of.
I’ll write again soon.
I love you.
My heart is breaking for you…& me.
Heart wrenching. Your writing really touches me.
Heart wrenching. So moving.
A very moving letter. You are a good writer, Ben. We all leave people and places behind, but you have captured the sadness and empty places in the heart.