So we’d finally come back from my dad’s overseas tour with the military, arriving in our new (old) neighborhood in style.  We were the envy of the ‘town’ – albeit it be just the dozen or so houses that made up the majority of “the ‘hood” – because we were fresh arrivals from a place that was all but unknown – a figure on a map, a name in their geography books.  Yet we lived in a house that was poor as dirt, and the living conditions weren’t a lot better – not what I’d been used to ‘over there’ (meaning in Germany and the adjacent countries).

Yet I managed to get along just fine – and yet not.  All my old friends were gone.  I was okay with them not being there, yet I longed for my old friend, B.W.  I had my homosexual urges; I took them out on the boy next door.  That was okay, too, for awhile, then he grew tired of me.  That was okay, too . . .

Yet the house I lived in seemed haunted – haunted by ghosts gone past, years gone past.  There was always a particular ‘haunting’ in the room I had – the ‘guest’ room in days gone past, and Sarge’s room, too, I’d rather suspect – but he was killed, dead, by a wheelbarrow coming into the back of his head at high speed.  “Broken neck,” is what they say killed him.

At the very least the house was ‘haunted’ by Mr. M.  And his father, the fat man, who had such great arms he could gather four or five of us kids in his one embrace and lift us all to the ceiling.  A great big fat rolling man, he earned his living laying bricks & building block. His son (Mr. M. I’m gonna keep on calling him) had been my ‘abuser’ at one time, teaching us boys of the ‘hood about sex and things.  I still find it quite shocking he was doing ‘it’ with his younger sister; she was only about four at the time – the time I met her and could have “did it”, too, but didn’t.

But don’t get the wrong idea.  “He” (Mr. M) was about – I dunno – 14? 15? – when we met him the first time.  13 maybe.  But he was our babysitter at one time – I was about 7?  More than once, actually.  He took care of a lot of the kids in the ‘hood.  In more ways than one, if you know what I’m meaning (wink! wink!). Ugh.

We had just moved in and everything was going fine.  (Okay, not school, but I’m saving that for a very different kind of story.)  The house was falling apart – slab floors, the linoleum tiles loosening from the floor every here and there and you had to watch where you stepped or suddenly you’d find yourself scooting on a loose one and sliding across the floor – taking you down with it.  The house was clammy and cold, and it was ‘fall’ – or late fall in the South.  There were baseboard heaters and that was it.

It was weird, looking out the back window into the next yard.  “Mine” I kept on thinking, looking at it.  We had lived there, in that redwood house, for so long, but it was no longer ours.  Now we were renting our neighbors (for that’s how I kept thinking of them – and it).  And I was living in it.  And the house was falling apart – like the neighborhood I’d lived in for so long seemed to be doing.

There across the now-paved once pristine white sandy road lay my ‘friends’ house.  Only there were several of my ‘friends’ living over there, as well as one awesome mother.  She was to be ‘my best friend’ for life; still is.  Just hear from her now and again; not much.  But she’s changed, too . . .

As have her kids.  The youngest one – he’s quite a bit of a daredevil.  The other one, more my age, is built like a brick mansion.  His arms are strong and he lifts weights all day long . . . and apparently he’s begun smoking (or at least his parents – and my mom – are saying so) – and they want me, who is smoking right now (but I’m only 13) – clandestine, of course, but they know – they want me to go and advise him on quitting!

Can you imagine that one.

So I go over there, talk to him one night while he’s lifting weights out in the yard, and he starts – we start – arguing.  He doesn’t believe I’ve been smoking for over a year now, and he isn’t smoking anyway – and he’s angry at me.

We make back up, but there’s always that ‘thing’, some distance between us, as if we’d discovered some deep division between us – a cliff that had formed.  His stepdad was very abusive; I know that hurt and haunted him; their entire family suffered.

I got to watch that, too.

~ 13

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