Friday, May 25, 2007

Where We Come From

Present Day, Henry River

I've been thinking about what it means to be from a place that no longer exists, and all I can think is that maybe Hickory, my own birth town, isn't so different from Henry River. All of us--but a handful of cousins, and Anne, of course, who doesn't even leave the house and so has abandoned the town in her own way--has left.

The last time I was there, I got sub sandwiches with April and went to hear music down by Green's Grocery. These days, she warned me, it's the dangerous part of town. The street that lead from Mama Heaton's house down to Green's did look different--maybe not dangerous, but it certainly didn't seem the same sidewalk I used to run up, the one I once saw the rain travel on, the one where we'd play Mother-May-I and pretend we were famous. It was dusty, in a sort of exhausted way.

Once we were at the club I sipped a weak drink and counted teeth. Meth has hit Hickory hard. You've got to really keep your eyes peeled to see a full set. Rough skin and hair--all the signs of hard-using. Halfway through the night, I needed a sweater and some air and wanted to walk out to the car alone. They wouldn't let me go.

I live in Brooklyn, I told them, and still they wouldn't let me walk the twenty or so yards to my car. I was, I will admit, more nervous there than I ever am in Brooklyn. There was a rumor of a serial killer who was arranging his victims in cars at the junkyard, then with the drugs and the racial unrest; it was quite unsettling.

But what unsettled me most was how unfamiliar it all seemed.

It's not just the place that I miss. The world that I was born into--with its coffee cans and night shifts, its apartment evictions and praise songs--seems so far away from the world I live in now that I can hardly even make up stories about it. Today, I'm a little sad about that, a little sad about having abandoned the first things I ever knew and not even recognizing what they've become.

1 comment:

Andrea Luttrell said...

I hear you sister. The Mansfield of my youth was replete with waist high grass and fields full of nothing but wildflowers. On Saturday morning's the men who worked their farms would drive downtown - one block of old stores on both sides: a pawn shop, a flower shop, a community theater, a lawyer's office - and would have breakfast at the Bronco Cafe. The library was the coolest place in town and walking to 7-11 constituted bliss. Now, it's a suburban haven for rich people who commute to Fort Worth and Dallas. those rich unoccupied fields of grass are stationed by Home Depots, Blockbusters, Starbucks, Super Target. They even tore down the old amatuer rodeo - The Cowbell, which was ineffably beautiful. It leaves one sad and speechless, doesn't it?