My father occasionally asks me what I remember of his mother, my grandmother, who died when I was only three.
"Nothing," I always lie.
The truth is I don't remember her but strawberry shortcake and the smell of cigarettes. A picnic table under a tree and vast expanses of wet grass, made all the more vast by my small size. Its funny what the mind holds onto.
I can't remember my first crab feast or most of what I learned in school but I seem to recall a fallen tree. It must have shaken the Earth when it went down in an ice storm some year. I remember a piano repairman, a college girl, a landscaper, and a poor old house with no locks on the doors.
Its funny how what you do at once feels unimportant in the grand scheme, but somehow does matter when all is said and done. Without these memories and experiences who would I be?
I know I left High Point for Rockingham County after a year.
"The grass is always greener" warned my French professor. You see I was the best French student High Point had seen and I would be missed.
"Yeah right" were my final words to him.
2004. I enrolled at Guilford College that summer and studied Spanish and World Politics. On the way back from the mountains with Martin and Alex and my brother Phil, we stopped at Guilford and threw the frisbee around a dusky athletic field encircled by asphalt. I was there then to find housing for the summer. I found a bulletin board with help wanted signs and apartment advertisements.
"100 year old farmhouse" the weathered ad read. This appealed to my sensibilities.
When I first arrived to meet them, Mitch, the landscaper, asked "why would you want to live here?" After all there would be no AC and nothing but heat all summer.
"I like this place. I like nature and that sort of shit..."
Mitch only laughed. He had me pegged as a rich tourist immediately.
Its funny what you treasure. I seem to recall a southern glow from Greensboro and the most giant bugs flying around exterior lights as though they were still craving sunlight.
At day I was alone. Everyone else was at work, at school. I appreciated the solitude. I would play with the cats, smoke cigarettes, watch the grass grow. Sometimes I would make the half-hour drive down the 220 to attend class but when Jay, Kate, and Mitch came back the afternoon went up in smoke.
"I don't do drugs. Just pot." I would always say, but that seems like a rationalization. Its hard to reason with that which you cannot understand, with that which you cannot grasp.
I am by no means an old man. For 29 years I have prided myself with musical pursuits. Played mostly by memorization of patterns, not by feeling.
My first night there I was timid, as is my way. Jay, a piano repairman, brought out his shotgun to gauge my reaction.
I went to Walmart to buy an extension cord.