A few years back I started writing a book. Well, I don’t know if you could call a book but it was similar to how I write now with one-off stories and the like. It did have a somewhat linear flow between the stories though.
It was mostly bullshit, too.
But I was thinking about one of the stories last night, one that was about the Allison Avenue era.
I haven’t felt much like writing anything new this month so here you go.
Frank was thinking of a conversation he and Nine had the night before as she started the kettle boiling for that morning’s coffee.
> FRANK: What’s your password again?
> NINE: Crater…regular.
That was such a minor conversation but sometimes something minor was all it took to start his cognitive trains a rolling.
“Regular” was a word that Nine used often enough that it always caught Frank’s attention. She was still in her single digits and Frank could tell that “fitting in” already had a place in her life.
“That should never be on a child’s mind,” he thought. It was still on his too much. Part of his job as a parent was to try and make it just not that important to Nine.
Frank was in his ninth year, just as Nine was now, when all social hell broke loose. His parents had bought a new house on the other side of town. The old home sat in the middle of an old block and this new house sat at the end of a new block.
At the old home he didn’t feel separate from the neighbors or their kids. He had known everybody since the proverbial “before he could remember.” He knew which yards to cut through and which yards to stay out of. He knew the cars, the cracks in the street, and the animals and the trees. He knew when people came and went. The telephone pole in the back corner had memories of he and Queen Penelope climbing the left-right rungs. The garage’s backside had memories of him busted for playing with matches.
Going outside from the old front door he could look left, he could look right, and everything was familiar. It wasn’t safe, maybe a little sketchy now and then, but it was all home…as far as his eyes could see.
Sometimes he would drive through that old neighborhood on Google Maps Street View and just feel stuff. The houses were different and he thought there were less trees. His old home in particular had different colored siding and the concrete front landing had been replaced by steps atop lattice. The garage was also gone, the garage that had kept his dad’s hotrod Plymouth that he and Penelope played on and in.
He wished he could see the backyard from the map. Frank shifted his head to try and look around the digital picture of the house.
After a few months at the new house Frank expected to find a Poltergeist graveyard around somewhere. The new houses on the new block were freshly built and the yards were freshly sodded. He knew most of the grownups’ first names on this new street but he didn’t feel a thing about them other than unwelcome. He felt looked down on but he couldn’t verbalize or even understand that. They were obviously “better” than him. That’s how he remembered that set of neighbors.
“We don’t want your kind around here,” one of moms had said to him while he was playing on her back patio with her boy. Frank didn’t know what to do with this surprise shame…so he just left.
Those times when you’re a kid and just want to run away? That was one of his.
Had Frank done something to offend her? No crimes came to mind. Maybe somebody in his new house had done something and he was guilty by that association. Who knows. Kids don’t think about big things like this. They only internalize.
It made him sad to think of when he had said his goodbyes to his old neighborhood peeps, folk he had spent his whole nine year life getting to know. Traded them in for a new set of everyday friends. He bonded with maybe ten percent of his new classmates and another twenty percent, well…he came to avoid them at all cost. They weren’t boy bullies, they were girls. With claws and teeth and words that beat him up. Words that squeezed him so hard internally that he had a social, spiritual collapse.
Most of the people in that area seemed to need an electrical outlet and Frank had arrived just in time for their shock therapy. Just in time for their voltage voice dial that was cranking up to eleven. He was the youngest with that set of siblings and wasn’t strong like King Leon or Queen Penelope. He couldn’t repel all the electric mosquitoes, he never stood a chance.
Deeply engrossed in thought while exploring this territory, he remembered what it felt like to be “one of” with his old friends, felt like he belonged, because he’d been there since day one.
“This shit’s fucking important.” his thoughts demanded from the keyboard that morning.
Never again did he really feel that group inclusion…with all the new houses he’d move to and with all the new schools he’d go to. When you join a group, you have no credibility, you start at zero by default. You will always be on the perimeter, you will always be excluded. You get to the point where you prefer it that way.
His sentimental thermometer started to return to normal. Maybe those William Street kids had only initially excluded him. Maybe there were some good seagulls in that second flock. He didn’t get to stay long enough to find out. His parents would soon divorce and that would usher in a whole new era for therapy.
Frank glanced at the clock and scoffed. It was almost 7AM. “Dammit, I have to get ready for work just as I was really digging into something.”
“Get in the same truck, drive the same route, to the same office, to sit in the same chair, to do the same job, to eat the same apple…” that he had for the past nine years.
As he was driving to work, his truck antenna hit the same pair of branches they hit everyday and he thought, “‘Regular’ — I sneer at social norms and regularity.” Like it or not, he was a comfortable outcast, often self-imposed, and he felt deeply guided (pulled) into instability and upheaval. That was his regular.
He didn’t like using the word in that way because “regular” was Nine’s word and he didn’t want to associate his own childhood with her. He wanted much more for her.