It was a lifetime ago. The stillness of the memory brings me some solace. It's not as though I ever thought that time would heal the wound or make the bitter pill easier to swallow, but it has. It has until I think about it. It has until I lose my focus on today and allow my mind to drift. So, I try to stay focused. I try to look at the sunny day and the dogs playing in the back yard and stay in the here and now. It's better that way and I can think that time has healed the wounds and banished the ghosts.
I put on my red jacket and walk out to where the dogs are. Sparky and Horatio are running around try to catch leaves as they fall. It's crisp today. That is to say that our nomal damp Gerogia fall has decided to add a bit of sun to the sky and the wetness of the leaves decaying on the ground is not as evident as it usually is. The dogs rush to me as soon as I step off the deck. Horatio begs to be picked up. He's a young Chihuahua that wondered up one day. He's tiny in comparison to sparky, the boxer mix. The dogs sleep together and seem to really prefer their own company to that of humans. Still, they're always ready to be petted and get a treat from the humans that care for them. I oblige them both and carry Horatio out to the garden as Sparky follows.
It's definitely fall. The garden still has tomato cages in it that are covered in dead vines held on by little pieces of nylon hose. The hose were used to hold the vines up so the tomatoes didn't sit on the ground. It had been a fun job to tie up those living tomato plants, but removing the nylon and dead vines is always tedious work and somewhat akin to taking down the Christmas tree. I always wish someone else would do both those jobs. Horatio squirmed to get out of my arms. He went immediately to where the squash plants had been so prolific and nosed among them. A grey field mouse jumped up startling him and Horatio took off after it. Sparky doubled back from where he'd been sniffing at a rotten pepper plant and joined in the pursuit. I hoped they wouldn't catch it. I hated dealing with the presents the dogs and cats often presented me with.
It isn't as if my story is so different from everyone else's. Grew up, went to college, got married, had kids…it's the little things in between the commas that tell the story. That's where we all differ. Those are the events that make us who we are. The events that lead us down one road or the other – the forks in the road. Mine? My commas? My forks?
I woke up one morning to a different smell. The room had a musty odor – it wasn't that it was bad or good, it was just not what I was used to. I looked around and didn't see the normal paneling that had been my bedroom at home nor the flat white drywall that had covered my bedroom walls in college. Stucco. The stucco was not faux. It was real. It was stucco that covered walls that had been constructed of mud. Walls build of barbed wire wrapped around posts and filled in with mud. The walls weren't even. There were dips and grooves that were highlighted by the orange tinted white wash that covered them. Chips and grooves in the walls showed the mud packed walls underneath the color. Some of the chips had been painted over leaving even more unevenness of texture to define those walls. They were cool to the touch and smooth where the stucco had been buffed down. They were thick enough to keep out the heat of the day, but not thick enough to keep out the sounds outside my window. Sounds of life that radiated from every passerby on the other side. There were sounds to get used to – the clopping of the horse that brought the milk; the voices of children on their way to school, and the horns of cars that announced their arrivals and their impatience.
It was a beginning. It was an end. It was a lifetime ago and a never ending story.