An except from Twirling Naked in the Streets and No-One Noticed…
I was born here, and part of me died here. The haunting echoes of my childhood lingered in the halls. I could hear it; run from it. I bit my trembling bottom lip determined to hold back the tears.
My stomach tightened when I looked at the empty rooms, my vanquished memories. The ones I’d thrust off to someplace new. Away from where the air was infused with freshly baked semolina from the bakery up the street. Where lunch was routinely a Sicilian slice from the pizzeria around the corner, or thinly sliced prosciutto and fresh mozzarella still hot from the vat, spread across crisp Italian bread. There would be no salmerias or delis in the Mississippi delta—no fresh baked cookies, Italian pastries or ices in the summertime.
I took a last look at the two-story brick house I’d grown up in, and the children running through the open Johnny pump, and then at the taxi waiting at the curb. The baby wiggled in my arms, as if he knew more than I at only eight weeks of age. One tear escaped from my eye.
Grandpa had stood in the same place that I did, in the shade of the dogwood tree. He’d worn a smile from ear to ear when he overheard the news. Three weeks later he was gone. I tucked a sonogram picture into his pocket as he slept in his mahogany casket. That was the beginning of the end.
My arms trembled as I looked up at the dogwood tree—my tree. Grandpa planted that tree ten years earlier, right in front of the house. He tore up the patch of concrete himself and then built a white fence around his gift. “See, a tree can grow in Brooklyn,” he said when he showed it to me.
My husband’s arm wrapped around my shoulder, “You ready to go?”
I nodded, and then watched him put the last of the suitcases in the back of the cab. The sounds of soft sobs drew closer behind me. My breath caught in her throat. I couldn’t speak, my chest hurt, and my feet felt cemented to the stoop.
My father’s tears always turned his eyes the brightest of blues. That day my eyes were gray. I knew I had to do this; a new life awaited us—a new job, a new house a new baby, a new place. It was my idea after all.
The sun shone through the trees; days this bright should not be so sad. Deep breaths, I can do this, I can say good-bye to this place.
“Jeannie, we’re going to miss our flight.”