Friday, January 13, 2006

I'm So Close, I Can FEEL IT.

This story is the first chapter in the book I've been knocking around for the past couple of months. I don't know why I'm posting it here, since I intend to print the fucker, so I guess I'm looking for feedback of some sort.

I really don't know what I'm doing here, and I suppose that would be the over-riding concept of the book itself.

Leading the Blind

Back in my diaper years, our family of five lived a modest life in a little town called Alief, which had, around that time, just recently been swallowed up by the ever-expanding tax-base monster of a city named Houston. We were a lower middle class, Caucasian family, which was doing well to keep ahead of the bills. My father worked as an Offshore Structural Engineer, which anywhere near Houston during the late seventies and early eighties meant that he worked designing oil platforms, docks, piers, or anything else that touched water and dealt with petroleum of any sort.

In the early eighties, after the oil crunch hit and dried Houston to straw, that market lost its footing and floated overseas. That meant that my father had to follow it in order to earn the money our family needed to make those meager ends meet. My memory of that time is certainly not unpleasant by any stretch, but it is spotted with threats that we may have to uproot and move to strange places with names like Australia, Norway, or San Francisco.

Whenever a threat was not looming, my father was working in even stranger sounding places like Korea, Japan, and India. He would be gone for long stretches of months at a time. Upon returning from said places, my father would always bring back toys, wondrous photographs, and tastes for ever-weirder foods like sushi, curry, or kimchi.

In all honesty, it did not bother me a whole lot that my father was not around. I do not mean this in a cruel, “I never really liked the man” sort of way. Far from it. It simply never occurred to me that he was gone, or that he may not return. Lucky for me, he always did return, so I never had to face up to my oblivious approach to the whole thing.

My brother was not blessed with my fortuitous ignorance. Even though we are twins, my brother was always able to pick up on the subtleties of such circumstances. Subtleties which were far beyond the grasp of my toddler mind. He was keenly aware that my father was gone, and that there was no solid evidence that he would return. Being but a small child of assumed limited conceptual capacity, he was not made privy to any information concerning my father’s actual whereabouts, or any proper timetables that demonstrated his pointable return. All he knew was that the old man would go very far away, for very extended periods of time, and no useable details of these journeys got passed down the family pecking order.

This, understandably, upset him a great deal.

One balmy Alief afternoon, my brother decided that enough was enough. He was incapable of continuing to play with toys, or watch network television while the family collapsed around him. He had to do something.

Even then, at the blessed age of four, my brother was ahead of the curve. He chose to do what children three times his age usually did when confronted with situations that appear to be beyond their control.

He had to run away from home.

To this day, I have no idea why I agreed to go on such a poorly planned journey. We were four. He had no map, no knowledge of the complications surrounding securing housing or sustenance, and more importantly: he had no new location to which we would be traveling to. A complete hack job, thrown together on a tantrum-fueled whim.

It must have sounded like fun though, because I remember being pretty upbeat about the whole thing. We had not yet entered elementary school, so we really had not been far beyond the boundaries of our own lawn. And when we did cross that line, we were shrouded in the shell of an automobile. We had certainly never gone very far from home by foot, and had never, under any circumstances, done so without parental supervision.

Those were simpler times, which is a phrase I have always heard my parents utter whenever discussing their childhood. My father would make ludicrous claims such as “one time, your uncle and I cut through some fence, jumpstarted a bulldozer, and ran it into a lake. Just to get back at the construction company for stealing my bike.” To which he would always affix that clever caveat-capper: “but those were simpler times back then.” As if that helped make any sense of the previous story.

Regardless, it is a loaded phrase, and I never imagined myself using it. But I am. They really were much simpler. So simple that my mother felt little trepidation at the thought of two pre-pubescents wandering the neighborhood with bags of our own toys. So little fear that she felt comfortable enough to go ahead and lend a hand.

“You want to run away?”

[red-faced, snot-screaming reply ] “YES!”

“You want to raise holy hell and cry about it?”

[vibrating, stuttered response with double the snot ] “YEEEEEESSSS!”

“Well, I’ll help you pack your bags then.” Such a helpful mother.

She helped us cram toys into a sack and a small powder blue suitcase, which actually belonged to our older sister. I probably cried during this process, but only because my brother and mother were visibly upset by the whole thing. I honestly had no idea what was actually going down. I just wanted to make sure my favorite toys made it into my sister’s suitcase, since that is what I planned on carrying out into my new life as a toddler hobo.

It is all about having your priorities properly sorted in such situations. Hobos should always be sure to have only their favoritest toys. These are the rules of the road.

Everything was packed and outfitted to specification. So my mother showed us out the front door. My brother defiantly passed through the threshold and headed straight for the street. I followed just behind, probably grinning with excitement, waving back. But just as we were about to step down the curb and into the gutter to cross, my mother shouted from the doorstep.

“Don’t cross any streets, okay?”

Streets? What the hell does a kid who still wears diapers know about “streets”? Sesame Streets? Whatever mom.

We agreed not to cross any stupid streets. No problem. Where we were headed, there would be no stupid streets, or stupid rules, or any other stupid street rules.

From the front porch we went right, and started to follow the curb toward the end of the block. We were on our way. Defiant and rebellious, at such a young age. I had no idea what the hell it was we hoped to find, why we were so damned adamant about leaving, or where we wished to end up. But I bet I really needed to pee. And I probably went ahead and did it in my pants, to save time on our journey. I was crazy smooth like that.

Around the block we went as my brother continued to rant with escalating fury about things I had no ability to comprehend. Like unraveling the intricacies of String Theory to a new puppy, or explaining an unfamiliar yet potentially violent emotion to a half-wit brother. I was completely incapable of comprehending, but happy enough to pretend.

The houses in that strange world beyond the sight of our mailbox were different than those on our street, but just slightly. We lived in a neighborhood which when developed, obviously had but four floor plans made available to buyers. “Color” was the chief design element with which people tried to differentiate their homes from their neighbors’. White or red brick? Brown or Green trim? Of course, if color failed to set your house apart, you could always try and outgrow the length of your neighbors’ impressive forests of St. Augustine creeper grass. “Mine’s the fifth green house on the left with the grass that hides a Volkswagen on the driveway.”

We trudged past differently painted homes of familiar architecture and fascia, moving rather slow due to the heat and burdensome luggage. Turned the fourth corner, still following the curb, letting the wild road take us where it may. My brother had quieted down considerably by then, focusing more on the trek, but he was obviously still seething.

The heat was starting to get the better of me. I felt tempted to abandon my sister’s carry-on with all my favorite toys therein. It would have been difficult, and potentially near-fatal, but I somehow knew I could survive out in the real world without my favorite Hot Wheels and a uselessly random selection of Lincoln Logs pieces.

Amidst my internal discussion surrounding the potential jettison of said toys, my brother stopped in front of me. A look of confusion poured over his face. I followed his line of sight and recognized the house in front of us. The misshapen hedges and cracked sidewalk were rather familiar. As was the brown color of the trim, the big tree with the perfect foothold for climbing, and our mother’s station wagon in the driveway…

My brother’s face quickly crumbled, moving from confusion to defeat. But then he mustered up some pride and marched up the lawn to the front door as if he had a full speech prepared and was completely ready to let it fly on our mother. He pushed his way through the front door, threw his things on the floor of the entryway, still sweating from the mix of vein-bursting anger and the mid-day sun. But instead of taking a left and heading into the kitchen where my mother was banging pots around, he bolted down the hallway to the right. My mother called out to him as he did so, “you boys didn’t cross any streets did you?”

“NO,” my brother replied with disappointed defiance, aware that we had been beaten by our own agreement.

“What’s for lunch mom?” I obviously had a different take on things.

8 comments:

Lisa said...

Great story - wonder if I knew you by then? I moved there when I was about 3 so perhaps at the pool? Anyway, glad you found your way home :).

Sean said...

Uselessly Random Selection of Lincoln Logs.

I like that phrase.

Impulsivecompulsive said...

"Simpler times." Definately needed in this context. I had a moment of trauma when I thought of two four year olds off the property alone, then I clued in to the simpler times. Somehow sending my own daughter around the nightclub, strip club, junkie district doesn't have the same innocent appeal.

Truecraig said...

LISA!!!: Always good to hear from you from out the VA way! Yes, this was long before we all met. At the time, we knew Barrett and the Winklers, but it was before we entered school. So we had yet to meet you and your slap-happy ways. WHOO HOO!

Two Ts: I used to drop those Lincoln Logs into that hole that got punched in closet door, where the room door’s handle would smack into it. Not sure if you remember that hole or not, but that’s where Lincoln Logs would go. And that’s how the collection became so uselessly random. Again, it was my fault.

Imp Comp: Your neighborhood sounds so awesome, it makes me want to cry. Are you sure you’re in Canada, and not Detroit? Or perhaps The City of God in Brazil? Regardless, it sounds most quaint…

Impulsivecompulsive said...

You can tell this is Canada because:
a) The wrath of god sandwich board people, junkies and schizophrenics are all excessively polite and continously apologise and
b) Those street cleaner trucks are out constantly. Never mind the fact that we're working on beating a 57 yr old record for rain here, and the streets are fucking rivers, you just can't trust rain to do a good job. Gotta clean those streets man, it's an obsession around here.

Sean said...

So that's when you started putting things in holes that don't belong there.

Anonymous said...

Around the block huh? That's great.

brother nick

Benji said...

How did the sushi keep? Was it magic sushi?