A simple number on a door that sits quietly as it has done for the last 37 years. Meaning nothing to no one other than an address on a door, a mailing address, a residence. A place to call home for now. Somewhere to go after a hard days work.A number that meant nothing to me until I saw it staring back at me from a death notice from the hospital where she died in 1979. The last address of residence. My last address of residence with her, in Apt # 2.
Pulling up, I suddenly find I can’t breathe so well, but I manage to get out and let my feet take me walking.
I walk to the window on the bottom floor where I know I used to live. I thought I would have a hard time remembering, but I don’t, I feel awkward and unsure of what I am doing here.
What I am I doing here?
I walk to the front of the building and know that the doors are locked and that I can’t possibly get in, but I walk in anyways and a lady comes out and holds the door open for me like it was meant to be, so I walk in.
For a moment I’m not sure where to go, but my feet remember the way, so they lead me to the end of the hallway where stairs go down to the basement door that will open up to that hallway in my memory. It’s older, like me and a little worse for wear, like me too. I can relate to that worn floor I am walking on.
As I open the door I know that the number on the first door to my right will be mine. I didn’t know that number until I saw it on the paper, but my memory remembers the door. I open the outside door and stare at it and then close it and walk away and then walk back and open it. Why am I here, why do I remember this so well.
It is as I knew it would be. Even without seeing the number I know it will be the right one because I remember where that door was and what it represents. A simple 2 on the wall, so unassuming and without agenda.
For about 30 seconds I don’t move, I hardly breathe. I thought I might knock on the door and tell the people there if they answer that I lived here, but my heart doesn’t want to remember again, and afraid to explain myself, afraid to embarrass myself.
I don’t want to remember people hiding booze bottles from her on the right wall beside the door in that cabinet behind the books, to try to make her stop drinking, and me helping her find one because she had DT’s so bad, she was convulsing and crying.
I don’t want to remember the kitchen on the far right side of that door and the highest cabinet that hid peanut butter in the far back that I would eat a tablespoon at a time because I wasn’t sure if mealtime would ever come because booze was the first food group and the priority in this household.
I don’t want to remember the bedroom straight ahead of the front door where I would sleep walk out of at night without recollection and find myself waking up on the couch that was situated on the opposing wall of my bedroom in the living room that was to the right of that front door.
And I smell the stench of 30 year old carpet in the hallway, I remember the one memory that I want to remember the least. The one of her bringing up blood in the bathroom all the way in the far left of that front door at the end of the hallway, when her liver finally gave up on her all those years ago and the last day I would ever see her alive.
Leaving for the hospital, she would never return to 537 Apt #2 or to me, and my life would also change forever since I move out of the province with my father and his wife (the woman I call mom who cared for me as my own mother never could).
I put my hand to the door to touch it without knocking and pull it back and walk out by the back door we always used to go out of and no doubt would have moved out of in the middle of the night if things had stayed the way they had always been. Rent was late for a few months and we needed to move again. A conversation overheard a few nights before she left.
I turn and then remember the store we used to go to and the shortcut through everywhere to get there. So we tried to find it and it’s still there with the same old broken linoleum floor that felt soft when you walked on it same as it was 30 years ago and even mentioned to the young clerk that I lived here in 1979.He smiled and actually looked interested. I buy mints and a paper and walk out looking up at an overcast sky, the sun hiding from our sight, just like my heart.
I also visit the school I used to walk to, for the short period of time I attended it. A place I hated because I never stayed in one place long enough to make any friends and the teachers always put me aside in rooms to catch up because I always started in the middle of a year and never knew what the heck they were teaching which only served to further segregate me from the others.
Finally I go past the big box store that has changed names where she stole a pair of winter boots for me by putting them on my feet from the shelf and making me walk out with them without paying.
For a moment in time today I was 7 years old again. The memory as clear as it would be if it was the day after all of this happened.
The area I’m in lacks color and light matching the memories in my mind.
It takes all of my might not to cry as we make our way out of that town. I hold no fond memories here.
As I look around and watch people walking their dogs, crossing the street. I realize that life is just carrying on as it should. No one here knows the memories of my pain. I am just a car going by. No one of importance.
So what was the point?
Maybe it was simply to let the child feel. Finally.
The child that was forced into adult situations reacting as no child should ever have to.
The wide eyes of someone too young to see what was seen, who barely cried but saw everything, recording it to memory, sleeping badly, planning food shortages and who lived in paranoia and fear.
A child who was trying so hard to try to help someone else keep living who had already given up and didn’t want saving, even might have been broken beyond saving.
As I watch the scenery disappear again after all these years, maybe that is all today was meant to be. To finally be allowed to feel the hurt of it all. And maybe in the days to come, let this adult with a child’s memories cry the unshed tears of 30 years past, that have been waiting patiently all this time to simply let go of what is long overdue.