I stand at the flagstone fountain in the park and gaze across the street at the red brick bungalow where I lived as a child. Am I supposed to intone something? Summon a spirit? Or perhaps I’m the one who’s been summoned? Ghost of myself.
Set into the steep hillside, the house faces west. A boarded-up plate glass window makes it blind in one eye. In the summer, from that window, I watched postcard sunsets. I also learned watching there that the world was TV. You watched it. It didn’t see you.
On the opposite wall, on a sofa, our family watched on a 15 inch portable Sears black and white with the collapsible rabbit ears men first walk on the moon. We welled with pride in the space program. I ate Space Food Sticks and drank Tang.
Around to the side, behind the rose bushes, through that small basement window was my bedroom when I was 10. A tiny square of sun on the brightest summer day was all the daylight that ever got in. There I first felt inside the base of my spine a small hard coldness. The night before, my three best friends had slept over to celebrate my 11th birthday. Tonight I was alone. The coldness grew. It tendril’d into an icy tingle that radiated up my spine and through my arms like a metal cage of disappointment.
Years later I learned the name of depression. But then it was just cold inside my spine. And the cold spoke to me. “Davy, this is how it’s gonna be. It’s just you and me. Make room.” “You’re wrong,” I said. “You’ll see. I’ll meet Ruby Tuesday.” I turned up the transistor radio and pulled the music close to me.
Through that bay window just above, the dining room table, my father and draft-age brother late on summer nights had it out over Vietnam.
“Immoral, unnecessary, we should not be there,” my brother said.
“You know what happens if we’re not there?” says dad. I was in Korea. When the communists took over, in came the guys with the clipboards. Anyone who spoke English or taught school or owned a business was lined up against a wall and shot.
Yeah, well, we should not be … dying … bombs…bloodbath…reds.
Drowsing I no longer heard the words, only rising and falling pitch, a duet of bitterness, anger, wistfulness, probing for connection And into the night as darkness took hold and the voices merged with the rising and falling rhythm of cricket sounds, harmonizing like sleep.