There was expectation to the evening, a low-level hum of overcast sky and awkward bird call. At first I was going to walk the neighborhood. But along the drive, shoots were being strangled in last year’s leaves. Pawing aside and tossing the the brown between my legs onto the drive, I uncovered more bright blue Scylla. When I looked up, two girls sped past, one with red glasses.
There’s a random heart in me. Leave enough leaves with insects for the birds to eat. Leave enough of last years leaves, wet below the surface, keeping the soil moist against a drought.
After raking and carrying bundles to dump under the backyard pine, I set off. Couldn’t go down the first alley–no enormous cottonwood tree curved against the sky. Nor the second one either–it ended beside a big apartment building. The third took me across two-lanes of traffic at Lexington and into familiar territory. A low-level hum of interest–to see the backyard behind the small house where my daughter and I had hunkered down, our first years in Saint Paul.
For months, even years at a time, I do not think about the house, even though it’s only eight blocks away. Mounting the alley heading toward it, I passed the huge landmark of a tamarack just retrieving its needles. Two heavy bodied crows swept above my head and settled in its top.
Fragments of those three years kept time with my steps. I remembered my hands resting on a white sheet–so thin and white, they seemed almost insubstantial. She and I had had a hard time before we broke away. My hands said something about being worn down almost to the nub.
There was Easy the cat. No, Easy came to us when we still lived in the big duplex with the man who was sometimes my comrade. Our cat, the one we adopted for our little house, came from the basement of an antique shop on West Seventh. I can’t remember her name just now, only the calico splotches of her, and her pee on the left-over carpet in the basement.
A huge snowfall our second year caved in the decrepit roof of the garage, allowing us to get enough insurance to rebuild it. Now I am about to pass the garage with its tangle of unkempt branches. The current owner has done nothing to enhance it. The roof still holds, and the outside walls remain a patchwork of siding. A scarecrow of a garage with a fine felt hat.
Do I really want to turn the corner and walk past the house which faces William Mitchell Law School? When we would walk out the front door toward Grand Avenue and its tantalizing clothing from Scandinavia, we would be putting a good face on our lives. She, beautiful even as an early teen, got a job in that Scandinavian clothing shop, and I, a easy moving skirt which I don’t wear anymore.
Now that I’m passing the house, I remember that the front yard has lost its enormous silver maple. That tree dominated the low roof, and had the odd effect of making both itself and the small house seem to touch the sky.
I notice as before the curved window in the attic. Behind that front attic were two small rooms, and a tiny window out the back, like a ship’s porthole, which gave me the sense of being at sea. In some ways we were at sea, unsure of land, trying to keep afloat in the tiny boat of a house, on a spinning ocean of a planet, in widening washes of space.