616 Club Boulevard
I’ve lived here all my life. The neighborhood has changed. The boulevard has gotten busier, and they put a freeway in my backyard. Nights, I imagine it’s the sound of the creek flooding and it puts me right to sleep. They added a sidewalk, too - one that runs from the corner to the school up near the park. I watch the children in the morning and the afternoons – braids and flyaway ponytails. They stop to blow the fluff from the dandelions and if it weren’t for their backpacks pinning them to the earth, they’d float off with the spores, plant themselves somewhere, grow into something wild.
Days, I watch the light pass through the kitchen and the living room. I don’t make it upstairs much anymore, where the beds of Franny and Jonathan are still in their places beneath the dormer windows. I don’t need to stand in front of those old beds to see see their sweaty curls spread across the pillows, the shadows of their eyelashes across their smooth cheeks. Nothing up there but memories.
Down here, I make a cup of coffee in the kitchen, instant, with two scoops of sugar from a bowl I keep in the cupboard. I sing songs to myself because I can’t seem to find the radio, and the voices I hear all come from outside the walls, carried in by the traffic and the passersby and the wind, but they are comforting, still. In the places where the plaster has fallen from the walls, the shiplap peeks through. In some places, I can see right outside and it reminds me that there are poppies growing in the yard, right up through the pile of ashes where I dump the coal basket in the morning. The poppies, they’re pink and purple, and they’re so perfect I want to step out on to the porch to watch them. And so I do. The doorknob is cool to the touch. I leave the door open behind me, feel the splinter of the weathered wood beneath my feet. The poppies nod in the late spring wind. A boy passes by, he is maybe fifteen years old, maybe younger. His eyes smile when I call out to him.
“Boy,” I say, “Can you pick me a handful of these poppies?”
He walks to the place where the poppies are growing, his sneakers disappearing in the tall grass. I watch as his spine bends toward the earth, his lovely, dark hands pulling the poppies right up from the soil, roots as delicate as spiderwebs. He picks three poppies, then four, five, half a dozen. At the end, he pulls a few dandelions gone almost to seed and instead of making a wish – perhaps he feels to old for this childish game – he adds them to the bouquet and walks them to me on the porch.
“Here you are,” he says. He calls me lady.
We smile at each other and he tells me about a place up the street that takes in the homeless for the night. A shelter, he calls it.
“But I’m not homeless,” I tell him, laughing, the flowers in my hand shake along with my laughter.
“But your house has no walls,” he says. “It has no door.” My house, he tells me, is no longer a house.
I thank him for the bouquet. And then I watch him until he has disappeared down the sidewalk. It has started to rain, but still, I think I will wait just a little while longer before I turn around to see if what he says is true.