Monday, July 20, 2015

Homes I Have Known and Loved

In trying to work on "Real Estate," I'm working on figuring out what home means for this particular character One suggestion I had from Molly Gaudry is to free-write about homes. Here's what I came up with.
This is a picture of my grandma in front of one of her homes.
Homes I have known and loved and remember: grandma's house with the cement steps where you could swing off the end and the dark wood staircase going up and the kitchen where the activity was and outside was a wide driveway with chained up dogs and John Deer tractors and grease spots in the gravel, There were boys everywhere, as my mom had seven brothers.

Omaha and an attic bedroom and a babysitter who had a scary basement. The apartment in Illinois. The first time where I slept on a cot outside of the bedroom by myself, separated from my mom. The house in Schaumburg with the pink and white bedroom and scratchy carpet and the huge flowered wallpaper in the kitchen and the back patio where Don grew tomatoes. That house had a basement with an office in it where the skeleton lived and Don also put up an indoor swing for me by the washer and dryer. That's when he was still trying to pretend to like me.

Florida house, one story, no basement, doors that slide shut instead of closing, a sun porch that got hot hot hot in the summer and the canal where cats could fall in. A living room floor that you could walk around in socks in and furniture that was just for company and a glass topped dining room table. I moved carefully around that house, trying not to make any noise or be noticed.

And then the houses of my adulthood.

A wall in Chicago we painted bright purple and green for a one year stay, that was a garden apartment with bars on the window, people always hurrying by and a shared bathroom, my bed on the floor, just a futon mattress and Tara and I both smoked, a small pantry to the side and the garbage out back behind the stairs.

Nadine's place on the street that had two giraffe sculptures on the ends of it. I had my own bathroom, but she had the one that was in her bedroom and this giant table in the center of the entryway and I think I had a real bed then. One night, we woke up because we heard the guy below beating up his wife. We called the cops and pressed our ears to the wooden floor. The woman says, "Can you think of a reason a man should hit a woman?" And the cop goes, "It depends." Nadine's dad was schizophrenic, and he called her once saying, "oh, I just saw your head in the refrigerator and thought I'd give you a call."  She had a sister too and I think there was a kitchen counter with two stools, but I'm not sure. I spent most of my time hiding in the bedroom, because she always had her boyfriend over and they would sit in the living room, smoking pot and laughing when he farted. When the lease was up nine months later, Nadine said she wanted to live alone. I felt like I'd been tricked.

My first place by myself on Hazel Street in a huge building. I loved it. It had no air conditioning and this was the summer of the heat wave in Chicago, but I had everything all my own and a huge slanted closet in the living room big enough to store a bike I never rode and books shelves made of ladders for the books I'd collected. I used to lay on the floor, I think I had a thin rug, and record my thoughts about boys into a tape recorder and then play it back and listen and smoke cigarettes and take Tylenol PM because I couldn't afford alcohol.

I remember many of these details mostly because I have photos of them, I don't know if I would recall otherwise, but the house on Hazel had a small gas stove and big sink and the building manager's name was Jack. He had white hair and a beard and an anchor tattoo and always wore a white T-shirt. I would walk every morning to the Sheridan el stop past a yard with unfriendly dogs. I was not happy in Chicago, I was always trying to find a boyfriend and managing only to find one and two night stands or guys I made out with in deserted stairwells at work.

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