I’m back at one of my childhood homes after deciding to take time off for the next semester. It’s a rainy afternoon, and the sky is purple-gray. My brother is home from college, and his friends are over and will be in the house for the next two weeks. I’ll be home for an indefinite period of time – as transient as the rain in Long Island, always falling without warning and taking up the days as generously and quietly as it came. I wonder where I have been for the past few months.
These last four years came like a whirlwind, and when I graduated high school, I expected to leave the island forever – this small town, the identical houses, the whir of traffic lights and highways and rich housewives behind for the sanctuary of a women’s college with architecture from the 1900’s and a city smaller than Manhattan. I used to sit in my room and wonder if I was going mad, or if everyone around me were part of some grand drama that I was not invited to. I would come home from school and rip into my homework with little enthusiasm, eat dinner, and sleep at 10:30PM every night.
This bedroom was one of my childhood rooms – where I would escape, and where I would have nightmares. The door still has no lock. What used to be white paint has mottled dark smears like claw marks on the lower right panels, and, as if to leave a statement, one final five inch scar in the center towards the right. I am not responsible for those scars, as my parents have moved the family out of the house for four years as they rented it out, then decided to return as my mother became chronically ill. It’s still raining as the winter sun starts to set. I have been home for slightly longer than one week, yet this time feels interminable.
The frantic barking of four dogs wakes me up in the morning, and I am forced to accompany the dogs, two at a time, around the neighborhood that all my acquaintances moved out of. What used to be homes owned by Italian and Jewish folks are now owned by Korean, Chinese, and Indian families. I count the times I see brown folks on my dog walks like stars, make eye contact surreptitiously as if acknowledging what doesn’t have to be acknowledged – that I’m here, I see you, and I come in peace.
I realize how much I have missed this neighborhood, have missed the changes, and realize how much has changed in myself, that I come back with new eyes. I probably need a new therapist, and hope that I will be able to find one who does not ask threatening questions, and does not question the validity of my existence. I have walked around for too long as if half-asleep, but all this time I was forcing myself not to feel the pain that has already sunken deep below the dermis and into my bloodstream and shimmer of a soul. I’m ready to awaken to the rain falling outside and the prospects of a revival. I’ll be 23 next year.