Lindsay humors me this one time we’re in town to visit my Dad. She doesn’t always listen when I talk about the house on Stephen Street, but she always smiles and nods and says uh huh and mhm at all the right times until I’m done.
I pull the car up along the sidewalk and the memories come flooding in and I smile. The paint is different and the fence is gone but the windows are unmistakably the ones I pressed my face against as a child while I watched the world go by. I put the car in park and unplug my phone. Lindsay tells me good luck and starts catching up on e-mails on her phone while I step out of the car.
My parents don’t have any affection for the house. Every time it comes up in a conversation at holidays or visits it’s met with a groan, a sigh, or a laugh of how terrible things were for us then. They say I wouldn’t miss it if I remembered how bad it was for us then, and I believe them but I don’t remember so I miss it.
For my parents it was a decade of fights, Summers with no air conditioning, and so many bills and debt collectors and layoffs that my sisters and I never heard about.
For me the house was a cheap plastic blue swing hanging from the tree in the yard. It was a birthday party where Uncle Rob spun us in circles until we were dizzy and couldn’t walk straight. It was before the divorce, when there was only one Christmas and Mom hadn’t introduced us to Rick and Dad wasn’t quite so fat and sad and tired all the time.
I think about it a lot and smile and wish I could go back for a day. A time travel vacation. Just be six years old and watch cartoons and play outside and lose myself in whatever fiction I had managed to create for the afternoon. I rewalk the layout of the house in my memory when I miss a time when things were easier. I used to watch raindrops on the window glass collide and grow fat and race to the sill because there was nothing else to look at, and that was fine.
I step up to the door and ring the door bell. A young skinny guy with nice teeth and a receding hairline answers the door, his eyes are full of anxious possibilities of who could be bothering him on a random Sunday afternoon.
He says hello in a way that makes it a question.
I say hello. I say that I used to live here when I was a kid. I say back in town visiting my Dad with my wife, and I was hoping that maybe I could have a look around if that wouldn’t be trouble. I say I know this is unexpected but it would mean a lot to me.
His eyes dart to me, and then to the car parked on the curb and then back to me.
He says sorry, it’s not really a good time.
I shrug and I say I understand. That I’m sorry to bother him.
He says have a good day, and I hear a woman in another room ask “who is it?” and he says “just some guy” as he closes the door.
I get back into the car and start the engine. Lindsay looks up and asks “No luck?” and I say “No luck.”
We pull away from the curb and the guy watches us leave from the window. Lindsay says “Sorry, baby. Your Dad texted me. Kristen got to the house and he’s going to order some pizzas before everyone else gets there.”
I say oh good and I watch the house get smaller and smaller in the rearview, before we take a right onto Dorris and it’s gone.