Saturday, July 24, 2010

My odd computer-geek analogy for home

It's kind of like a computer game. The menu screen of the computer game. I have this image in my head of a map, and it's full of areas of the game you can visit, but only certain ones can be active at a time. Some of the places on the map are dormant, and when you mouse over them, they don't light up. You can see them, faintly, just the image, just the outline. But you cannot open them and go inside.

I'm back in a town I first lived in a decade ago. I lived here for six years and left for four, and now here I am again, driving familiar streets, shopping familiar stores. It is startling how little changes when you leave a place for a while. How easy it is to slip back into the routine of living there.

On my way to Kroger, I pass the building that once housed the offices of the job I held at the time. Below that building, in the alley out back, is the first gay bar I ever entered, out and proud, and scared to death, at the age of 20. I remember my sister taking me there for my 21st birthday. I remember watching her dance months later with a boy who would break her heart.

I remember dancing there myself with a girl I barely knew, a girl who is now a man named Jakob, my husband. I mean, who could have predicted that, on a dance floor seven years ago? Who could possibly see where the map would lead and which sections I had yet to unlock?

Kroger has great produce, but their freezer section is lacking. Which means I turn around and head for Wal-Mart. And on the way to Wal-Mart, I pass a bus station that used to make me cry. I pass a balcony I used to stand on at sunset, looking toward the horizon, thinking about the future. I pass a college I used to attend, a house, an apartment, a trailer I used to live in. All of these so vivid, so familiar. But I can only see the outline now. I can't click. Although the memories are so vivid I can taste the oatmeal cookies I used to bake and smell the laundry detergent I used to use, these sections of my life aren't active anymore. They don't light up when I mouse over them.

Just past Wal-Mart is a little yellow house. It isn't mine, but I've got high hopes for it. I can't help but look at it and wonder whether it's on the map. Whether the outline is there, waiting to become active so I can click on it, so I can enter. I can't help but hope for oatmeal cookies in that place, for the homey smell of laundry detergent and a headful of memories I've yet to know.

Once, I walked past a kid in a dance club and half-turned, thought, I'm going to know that person someday. And once, ten years ago, I walked around this city fresh, without knowing a single face, a single building.

It's funny how many times you can walk past your home and not know it.


Heather Kelly said...

I was going to wait until I could say something really awesome in the comments of this post, but I need to get to revising. So, I just want to say that I love this analogy--that the links are there for you, but you just can't click, and that somehow that opens up to other things that you can/should click. I'm hoping for that yellow house!!

H. Dooley said...

That other Heather is right - this is a great analogy!

I'm confused though. I never danced at Stonewall with a boy who broke my heart. I only remember dancing with one boy there, and I'm not 100% sure what his name was. It either started with a G. or a C. I danced with a lot of girls there, but they didn't break my heart either. The only boy in H-town who broke my heart wouldn't have been caught dead dancing at Stonewall, lol. Unless my memory is seriously lacking, I do not think that happened. But I've just shown that my memory is not the best, so who knows? Ah, well. Creative license.

At any rate, I like the analogy of the computer game menu a lot. I remember riding up in the elevator with Mark (though at the time, he wasn't Mark, he was a guy in a hat) on my first day of canvassing and not saying a word.

Sarah Dooley said...

Thanks, Heather K!

And Heather D, you actually were walking down an alley with him, not dancing with him. But I thought Mom might read this and think "walking down an alley with a boy" might sound sketchy, so I tweaked it a little. And now you've forced me to come clean. It was a brightly-lit alley, Mom, and he was only walking her to her car, I promise. I was there.

H. Dooley said...

Huh. I still have no recollection of the event, but again, my memory ain't what she used to be. And yes, mom, the "alleys" near that bar are practically streets themselves.

Sarah Dooley said...

You know what? That's 'cause you didn't. Now that I'm thinking this closely about that memory, it wasn't THAT guy, it was rebound guy. The one who you asked, "You're not 19, right?" And I won't say how he answered, 'cause you know.

So you're right. That didn't happen. I knew you didn't dance with him, but I did think you walked down the alley with him, but you didn't.

G., by the way. Now that I remember who it was, I also remember his name. Just needed a trigger.

Anonymous said...

Yikes. :)

Anonymous said...

Yikes. :)

Mom said...

Amazing piece of writing. And kids, stay out of dark alleys. Don't make me come out there.

Paul Michael Murphy said...

How dare you besmirch Kroger's freezer section.

Got somethin' against Pizza Rolls, do ya?

Sarah Dooley said...

Pizza Rolls are the food of the gods. Unfortunately, the Kroger gods charge two dollars more than the Wal-Mart gods.

Paul Michael Murphy said...

Well, there is that. But at Kroger you get to use your Kroger card and pay more while feeling like you're getting a deal.

I'm so easily manipulated--a marketer's dream