Again I’m called back to the house in my sleep. But I’m outside and the house is still red with white shutters. It’s been painted the ugliest burnt sage for years now, even longer than years, decades. We’ve been gone for decades.
And I wonder if we haunt that house even though we’re each of us still living, if some bits of our ether were left behind on the walls in invisible strands, burned in with the living of us.
Did our feet scorch the underside of the linoleum floor? Is there DNA linking us to the first place we call home?
Outside the too red to be true house, I stand on the same concrete sidewalk I spilled vegetable soup on the day Ma came to kindergarten with carrots and celery. I carried the cup down the hill, across Ruger Avenue at the cross walk, and through the neighbors’ lawn. It was Ma’s soup, a taste for helping. It smelled yummy enough to attract a sweat bee, small and precise, bee enough to make me wiggle. Down went the cup and off tipped the lid. Ma heard me outside, horrified I’d lost her soup. A fit full of tears and snot.
She found a spoon, reclaimed what broth and carrots she could and warmed it in the microwave. It was delicious, she said. See? The soup wasn’t lost after all.
In this dream, the street was more bare and silent then even the still life of weekday afternoons. This was Twilight Zone still where I walked through time knocking on the neighbors’ door. Mary and Bill retired and moved north to a cabin, but this dream day they were home.
It’s me, I said, but didn’t go in, didn’t see past Mary’s regular round face so close to mine as it had always been; I was young when I’d overgrown her. I told her I wanted to see our house, could she please talk to the neighbors, she surely knew them well as she’d known us.
No, she said, no, just go over and knock.
As in dreams when you just appear in the place you need to be, in that instant, I was inside the open garage standing at the door. Dad’s boat was gone, replaced with a collector car in nice condition. I knocked. A man answered, I could see on his face a concern that I was in the garage instead of at the front, too familiar already. I used to live here, I said, my dad built the house, could I come in and see it?
Of course, he said, anytime. He held the door wide. I looked past him into the kitchen. The dining room. I looked and saw new colors, things moved and rearranged. It wouldn’t work, I thought, it wouldn’t work to bring the memories back. Thank you, I said. Even in my dream, I couldn’t walk through that door.
I’m wondering now, what will it take and how far should we go to tell the true story?