I got the call last night from my parents that my dog had passed away. This spurred in me some sort of calling to drive back through my hometown, and see what of it that I can. The first place that I drove by on the freeway was my old bookstore I used to haunt, all boarded up, vacant as the pages of all the books I never read. Dead as the paper life it once held.
Remember that fort we built with our friends, before they all moved away? We stayed the night there the two of us wrapped in our sleeping bags and watching the stars up through the leaves, I was so confident this was the night I would make my move. But I was so scared. The next time we went up there somebody had come through lumbering like a giant beast and smashed down our swing, our cardboard walls.
I thought that I would go by my parents’ old place. Look in at the yard I would wander around when I was 6, pretend that I was a great warrior king, coming to save you from some arch-demon warlock. That I was flying through space to pull your ship out of the maw of a giant space whale. I would always save you at just the last second, before I’d get called back inside to solve the riddles of arithmetic. Today there was a for sale sign out front from a family I’d never met. The tangerine tree, the tangerine tree where I’d always grab two pieces, one for me and one in case you got hungry in third period. My last tangerine I’d given to you, and at last a kiss before you took a job across the country. I always got there at just the last second. Now somebody’s torn out that tree and threw down some cheap grass mat. The color doesn’t even match the rest of the yard.
There was nothing left there, I got back in my car and drove away like a ghost passing over a grave.
Sometimes late at night when it’s still hot out, and I’m throwing my covers all around in a passive-aggressive wrestling match, I like to drive out to the top of a parking structure and watch the warm orange glaze of Los Angeles humming like the inside of an oven and grab the rusted iron latch over my chest and wrench it open to let the little bird in there out and singing the two of us blue and brilliant we fly together over the hills back to the town of my youth.