Home.  “Home is where the heart is,” they say.

But what if you have no heart? What if it’s dead and buried?

Ripped

“Home is where you are at; wherever you stand.”

That’s I learned moving around so much.  Home is where you hang your hat – whether it be a tent, a house, apartment, or truck.  ‘Home’ is where your stuff is.

Home.

It was early winter, 1973.  We’d finally arrived.  ‘Home’.  Back in the Good Ol’ U.S. of A.  Coming down the gangway stair from the jet to terra firma, solid ground, and not the four thousand miles of ocean we’d just covered . . .

As per custom and sworn duty, I got on my knees and kissed the dirty white tarmac, then looked up, wiping sand from my lips and spitting grit out.  My mom and dad scolded me for doing that as they attempted to herd us toward Customs in a low white hanger.  There wasn’t much – just long white stretches of concrete lined by pine forest, burned jet fuel’s acrid stench wrinkling your nostrils; the shrill scream then thunder of the distant jets laboring airborne, burning off precious gallons of fuel in dark swirls and leaving acrid  haze behind them . . .

My brother and I struggled across the open tarmac towards the building with our carry-on bags, our parents in embracing us like brackets.  I was 13; we’d just arrived from Germany, and the future was a big blank – just like the blank white wall in front me with the man-door.  The straggling line weaved towards it,  passengers in bunches and gathers, separated by social graces and grim tired faces – making a rather unsteady beeline for . . .

CUSTOMS” it said in plain black block letters over the door in English on a white sign.  Like everything military in which I’d spent the last three years of my life . . .

Customs.

Customs were about to change, that was for sure.  My whole world was about to get different. And I knew it.

I had been briefed going in.  We weren’t going to be living in our own house anymore.  That had been sold. Rather, we were going to be living in our next door neighbor’s house – now a rental, and the one . . .

the one . . .

even then my mind had stumbled.  Those last days were a daze in the ‘hood – Mister W gone: dead. Sarge, his trusty sidekick and companion: gone, dead as well.  My entire family, life, and childhood had been upset in a rapid series of transitions.  Things that had gone wrong.  It has been like shock therapy to my mind.  Then the move . . . nearly four years gone . . .

The Hood.

Our car was waiting for us. A family friend – the people who lived across the street from us – had gone to pick it up from Customs.  She squealed her delight and gave me a good hug, Southern style.  She had always been like a second or third ‘mom’, only much more loving and kinder than my own – and also a lot more sympathetic.  Towards everything.

Then:  The Drive . . .

The change in scenery: we had been in winter, here it was like fall. The Southern pines were green and tall, the grass visible, though splotched brown.

Where was the snow?

I was calm, but also upset.  I had had this Dream . . .

The Hood.

The miles rolled under the tires like a tolling bell.  Not many, for the airport off Tobacco Road, not far from our former home.  The sand hills rolled by, decorated in scrub and barrens.  I saw the run down clapboard houses with shingle and metal roofs, a hunkering trailer park, roads lined with trash and weeds . . .

Not at all like the Germany where I’d been twenty-four hours before.

The Hood – the neighborhood I associate with my childhood (between 5 and 10). When I left, it was a single dirt road lined with a few tract houses sheathed in clapboard or siding, or, as with our former house, redwood. Only one had brick, and it was the envy the neighborhood. It was across from ours and belonged to the family which had befriended ours so many years ago.

As we made the turn, our family friend still chatting about the changes ahead, I tried to access what I knew.

Most of my friends (or former friends, anyway) were gone. The army family up the road – friends I had known for years – had followed us overseas, coming to visit us while on duty. They were still gone, would be for another two years. They were the “other Army family” in the ‘hood. The rest were civilian, having lived civilian lives, and would continue to live them for as long as they lived. Others were gone, teens grown up, moved out . . . scattered to the winds.

My best “childhood friend” was gone – they’d moved soon after we’d left.  Their father was dead and I’d heard their mom had gotten a new husband soon after, and they’d went to live somewhere over in South Carolina.  We were going to be living in their house, renting it next door to our old one.   As we pulled in – on a paved road – I could see it.  Gone was the barn where my girlfriend and I had cuddled and kissed after getting ‘married‘ one day. Gone were the relationships. Gone were the ditches where we used to sink in cool sand while water ran in clear sheets around our knees. . .

So the isolation would remain.  The nearest store – a 7/11 – had been built about five miles away. There was a book mobile which would come around about once a month, but it was slim pickings compared to what I was used to – a real library, PX, and a whole lot of freedom.  Gone were the bus and train.  The only ones left – the only ones I played with as a former child – were the kids across the road.

Worst of all:

We were in HIS house – the same house – as the guy who had groomed and sexually abused us kids.  Sure, he was gone . . . but I remembered, him and his little brother,  my former best friend . . . still I didn’t know it was ‘abuse’, but the pain of his final rejection and betrayals still stung, that whole mess  near the end . . .

Gone – but unresolved.  It was still there.  Fresh, like a wound that bleeds that you can’t see.  And it was affecting everything I was, everything I felt, along with everything else I’d experienced.  As it would for years . . . all of it.

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