The fourth post in The Education of a Writer (TEW) series. A Monday feature. Next up: “Why My Step Father’s Death in the Grand Tetons Is Important.”
I remember a trailer home. All windows on one end. All dark on the other end. And a skinhead seated in his fabric chair in the living room listening to Fugazi’s “Waiting Room.” I’ve lost touch with him, but the skinhead was my best friend at the time.
I remember a trailer home in Flagstaff. The home of a man who was the boyfriend of a girl I just travelled 1,300 miles to surprise with a visit. He was spectacularly friendly. He shook my hand and gave us a loaf of bread when we left. I never saw the girl after that.
I remember a trailer home with a television just kicked into the wall after I’d just said something to a friend about his girlfriend. Or shouted it. We rushed out of there and spilled onto the streets and into some cars and drove off. In the ditch.
I remember the house on Strong street. My mother’s house. The steep, gerber-carpeted stairs leading down into the basement (my bedroom). The brittle single pane of glass in the concrete wall as the stairs turned 90 degrees left, and the view of the backyard through that window …
The backyard full of dirt and occasional clots of weeds, sweeping down a steep hill to terminate in a dry, gnarled creek bed.
Let’s not forget the long, rectangle storage room where I tried to learn how to paint, canvases of all shapes and sizes (bruised with oil) leaning against the walls, and, in milk crates mulling around my bed, stacks of journals amounting to an endless list of failures and language about meaninglessness.
At this time of my life my life amounted to my mother’s house. The house with the dark wood panel. The molten tan refrigerator. The narrow galley kitchen with the gaudy brick-red stove. The stove I dreamed of cooking a placenta on because I heard eating placenta cured one of depression.
The house I never left.
I was desperate. Alone. And restless. Even though I bounced around to other people’s houses and trailers, I felt strangely alive–in the flesh-and-blood sort of way–in that house. The dark wood spindles in dining room wall–the ones I dreamed of getting my head caught in between. The shag carpet in the den, the small box television perched on the wicker stool. And the brood of bloodhounds asleep in my parents’ bed.
I have two records of the time I spent in that home (the time I spent after I graduated from high school to the time I finally buckled down six or eight years later). On one hand I have my memory, and on the other hand I have a stack of journals fuzzy with mold.
If you flipped through those journals you’d probably get a sense that I was full of myself, and that I sincerely believed (or hoped) one day the state government would turn my mother’s house into a historical landmark … all because of some fuzzy journals.
Even though I am 20 years removed from those journals, I learned long ago that if I still want that dream or hope to come true (about the house on Strong becoming a historical landmark), then I have quite a bit of work cut out for me.
You don’t get genius status without effort. And serious effort at that.