The following is a portion of the story I had been working on up until this past weekend. I realized that I could not continue with this story for a variety of reasons, and it has been one of the most freeing decisions I've made as of late. For those interested, you can see this unrefined and unfinished false start of mine. More writing is going to come, and hopefully soon.
For the first week his surroundings seemed so foreign to him that he had to continually take the bus forty-five minutes back to his apartment. Once at his doorstep, he would immediately feel awkward as he remembered that the subletter in his room had brought her fiancé along with her, and out of fear of interrupting the couple in the midst of sex he would decide against knocking. The couple didn’t have sex all day long, but the mere thought of interrupting them one time was enough to keep him outside.
What would I have done if I had gone inside anyways? This isn’t my home right now, he mumbled as he walked back to the bus station and took a return trip. He did this a couple of times the first week until he realized the futility and saved thirty dollars of bus fare. Instead of taking bus trips, he decided to stay in town and take walks to reorient himself with the settings. It had all been familiar to him years ago, but a large fog had developed over time that he knew had to dissipate if he wanted to make the next few months fruitful. He would go walking just as the dinnertime sun began to recede, and would remain largely within his own neighbourhood. He did this every other day for his second week.
Once he had reconnected with the streets and parks of his childhood, he started to venture out into other neighbourhoods in the city. He was becoming a regular again at certain coffee shops as he caught up with old friends who were still in the area, and still searching for a pub to haunt in a town that had lost all it’s original watering holes to the new, strip mall pubs and eateries that were popping up in the new suburbs. He loathed going to these places because they faked the aesthetic and community of an actual pub – the kind of ma-and-pa run place where you were welcomed each night. There was something criminal, he thought, about the way a crew of university girls in short kilts serving beers they couldn’t pronounce correctly were forcing family businesses that prided themselves on the quality pour into the ground.
As the third week began, he knew that while he was starting to get accustomed to life in his hometown there was purpose for him being here that he had shirked up until that point. He was there to write – and in order to write he knew he had to start walking beyond his own neighbourhood. There were other places that bore most of his memories, and he had to go there.
Rather than working his way up to places most endearing and painful to him – the thematic trait thus far – he went straight for the old playground of Spartan Park. He went at midnight, when the park was silent and still, and the only lighting was the dim reflection of orange streetlights on an overcast sky. He sat contemplatively and searched for creative insight on top of the jungle gym, then swung back and forth on the swings, rhythmically trying to move back in time. He caught a few glimpses of pasts spent trying to swing over the top bar, and boys and girls playing tag down the slides and across monkey bars. There had been childish attempts at flirtatious gibberish. These had been brief flashes, coming and going, but there was still no over-arching image. So he left the playground and began his walk through the neighbourhood – towards a specific house.
As he walked throughout the quiet suburb he immediately felt guilty, as if someone was watching him and knew he was returning to a place with intentions. His intentions weren’t clear to him though – if anything he was trying to discover his intentions, to have ears open to hear directions. He was constantly scanning his surroundings to see if someone was viewing his journey. Even though there was no reason for him to feel wrong about walking late at night, he still felt like he was on someone else’s property. He had already done that years ago, and it hadn’t gone extremely well for him. But in that scenario years earlier he had come away with a treasure that made the trespassing worth it.
On that night, as he made his way closer to his destination, he grew anxious over what was going to occur once the familiar house came into view. Then it did. First the backyard fence came into view, then the large pine tree on the side of the corner property. He walked gingerly along the sidewalk, so as to not make his presence known to who ever he suspected was silently waiting to judge him. He glanced at the basement window on the side of the house, and the memories began to quickly flow. His heart rate began to increase. He shifted his eyes to the ground and continued on the sidewalk until he had rounded the corner and was able to look upon the house from the front. As he raised his head, he first noticed that there were no curtains in the front window. So too there was no porch swing on the front porch. Things were different, but he had expected that. What he had not expected was the realtor’s sign that moved only slightly in the night wind. Nor did he expect the sold sign that was stuck against it.
The context in which he had remembered running throughout the house had been absent for over a decade. He knew the place would be somewhat different, with the knowledge that another family had moved in, but now the place looked empty. Where had the last family gone? Who was moving in? He wondered what story had developed and been the cause for the last family to leave – knowing full well that there was always a story behind transitions.
Alright. So I’m here. Now why? he thought. He was curious as to why he had chosen that night to visit the old house, and why, of all the times he could have come, he chose now. The sign was glaring at him. He remembered how alienated he felt from his childhood the last time he had seen a sold sign on the front lawn. A pang of fear struck him at the thought of being even farther removed from what had been once so familiar and safe for him. He was afraid that his memories, strained as they already were, would not survive being three times removed once the third set of new residents arrived. There was an overwhelming sense of immediacy beginning to surface. He had to start writing.
He had to quickly scribble down the thoughts starting to form within for fear of forgetting them once he returned home, so he fumbled in his side bag for his pocket journal and opened it to the first available page. There was no structure or reason behind what he wrote blindly in the night. Thoughts became words, which in some cases became sentences. The page began to fill with random thoughts full of repetition and wordplay. When three pages were full he moved back to the corner of the property, where the streetlight was strongest, and squinted to see what the orange glow made of his scrawling. His writing, frantic as it had been, resembled a school child learning cursive. He read over the pages, but nothing stood out to him as coherent.
His knees tightened as frustration began to rise. Is there anything I can gather from any of this? He was so angry that nothing was becoming clear to him that he was prepared to rip up everything he had written. As he began to tear the first page out, his eyes caught the last thing he had written in his journal before that evening – something he had been struck by in a discussion with an old religious studies professor of his. He briefly remembered their discussion of various religious eschatologies after a class that previous winter on death and dying, in which the professor offered a gem that he had written down:
- Death is a radical revelation that opens up the future…
He stopped mid-rip and meditated on that comment. He focused on the quote so intensely that it quickly became blurred, forcing him to refocus. Death is a radical revelation that opens up the future. It was right there. This was his second sign of the evening, and the clearest of anything he had seen that night. He had finally found it. When he looked up from the journal his eyes returned to the ‘for sale’ sign, and an image of what he must do began to form. Oh, this is just ridiculous, he chuckled. I’m going to get a lot of flack for this, but if I’m going to give myself a funeral, I want a proper goodbye – from the inside out.
He scribbled down the address of the realtor, closed his journal and walked home.
In the morning he brewed some coffee for his travel mug and set off to see the realtor. He wasn’t sure how he was going to phrase what he had to ask, nor if he would be asked to leave the premises. The reality of his proposition was, well, quite unusual to both him and those he envisioned hearing him out. Though the distance from his house to the realtor’s office warranted a bus or taxi ride, he needed the long walk to formulate what he was going to say.