Secret Pop

Sep 11, 2006

Memory Lane is not aptly named.

In my case, "Lane" carries too much of an air of quaintness and small-towny quiet. Memory Lane is a street in which kids can play ball without worrying for being run over. I guess because any cars that venture down that apple tree-lined stretch require a hand crank to start and may be delivering blocks of much-needed ice. Where my memories reside, there are four full lanes, a double yellow line (not for crossing), and room enough along the curbs to park and or ride a bicycle. And not one of those bicycles with the one really large wheel. Memory Lane, for me, is huge and heavily trafficked, and I've received many citations there, both for cruising and for loitering.

I am staying at my little sister's home in San Diego. She and her boyfriend recently moved into a very nice place in Carmel Mountain Ranch. I used to live in an apartment nearby, so this visit is filled with familiarity, right down to the smell of a September morning. It's cool out. The grass and shrubs are covered in beads of dew. In the shade, it feels like autumn. And in the sun it feels like spring.

I used to live here. I used to go running just down the road. I used to smell jasmine and eucalyptus in the shade, and I used to like it when the mist from the sprinklers caught me in the face. I used to wake up earlier than I intended and wonder how the days would go. I used to manufacture reasons to do just about anything for fear of sitting still.

Five years ago, when September 11 didn't yet have a name of its own, the air was a lot like this. The sun a lot like this. I fully believe in global warming, but you can't always feel climate change from one year to the next. It seems like this morning is just like the other September mornings that found me awake very early and heavy with the looking back. That was the last September 11 I lived in this city and in this neighborhood. Every subsequent anniversary, I have been elsewhere, except for one when I was here, but in the capacity of a visitor. I even went to a baseball game that time. And the Padres even won.

This is always the time of year I stumble back into old messes. There are milestones on previous calendar pages. Proximal moments with like elements. The spans between them converging as the point of looking back grows further from them and the idea of a beginning loses its meaning. I have always felt this way. I have never felt this way. I am assuming a brand of feeling that may never have been. Mostly, I just know that there are times when I have been unhappy and there are times when I have been reluctant to admit that I was not unhappy, and neither of them felt as foreign as the times when I was sure everything was wonderful, and unhappy was only worth understanding for the sake of its antonym.

Saturday night, I noticed people wearing sweaters, and I was thrilled. I celebrate the return of fall weather. And all the melancholy it brings. I have needed a break from the heat.


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