A Walk in the Neighborhood

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You run out into the front yard, door ajar,
you reach out and grip the cold iron gate swinging it open
down the steps onto the sidewalk
one, two, three steps
next square of concrete
the lines race past your blurred eyes
the setting sun slaps the back of your neck
don’t stop running until you reach the next street
leaving the perfect little white house behind.

Turn left and you’re seven again
towel folded over your swimsuit like a dress with your goggles on your forehead
you remember swinging open the gate to your best friend’s house and you can feel the weightlessness before your first cannonball
“Hey!” yells a strange man from his dark green pick-up truck.
you’re suspended in water- trying to keep it from rushing into your lungs
“excuse me” he says in a more reserved tone, “have you seen my dog? his name’s pepsi”
his tired attempt at sincerity could come from exasperation or deception
“could you please tell your friends to look out for him
he’s been missing for two weeks”
his pleading tone makes you reach out for the flyer
as he drives off you watch until he’s out of sight
crumpling the paper into a tight wad you shove it into your pocket and run the other way
you don’t owe him anything- but your ears still perk up at the sound of a bark.

You’re on the main street
three cars pass you
navy blue
black
and white
they approach a four way intersection
navy blue goes forward
black goes right
white goes left
you stop in your tracks and go the opposite direction instead.

You pass your dream house again
olive green with a mahogany door
glass windows etched with a floral pattern
a garden in the front lawn with lilies and conifers
a sense of hopelessness overwhelms you
your dream already exists
and is not nor ever will be yours.

Round the bend to the left and a large expanse of street unfolds before you
the gravel crunches underneath your feet
and autumn leaves crackle
you are immersed with the sense of winter soon arriving
with a suitcase of worn out dreams
the entire street has a ominous Santa
nailed to a tree at every house
ruddy cheeked and sideway eyes
with a malicious grin partially covered by his stringy white beard
painted on an upside down wooden heart
the street’s artist had given them to her neighbors as peace offerings but left decades ago
walking down the street, you call out the names of the different trees that have a Santa on them
oak, pine, maple, pine, oak, willow
you stop
the second to last house
it’s missing a Santa
a multitude of explanations race through your mind
maybe they weren’t home when she was passing them out
maybe they moved in after the artist left
maybe they were unpleasant people and the neighborhood disliked them in general
the absurd explanations swirl together into an incohesive mixture until
it hits you
maybe they just don’t celebrate Christmas
an attempt to bring the neighborhood together at the same time left a family out
you begin to feel enraged by the community’s insincerity to accept others
but then another thought strikes a blow across your face
you’re part of the problem
from the start you pointed fingers at them before blaming yourself
your inclination to blame others is exactly why this happened
and it sickens you
the Hallmark image of Santa, reindeers, and candy canes
takes off its mask
and the wooden ruddy cheeked Santa avoids your gaze.

Turn right and walk down the street
at the end on the left you see two boys on the front lawn
one sitting up looking outward
one lying down looking within
the boy on his back says something
the other boy looks back in disbelief and yells harsh words
words that sting your ears
he gets up and storms towards a pickup truck
as he drives off you run the opposite direction
either way the boy is left alone.

Go home, go home, go home
the wind whispers, the cold screams
you take the main road that’s a straight shot home
you go behind the house and walk through the backdoor
a tacit glance implies complacency
you take a few steps back and find yourself
stuck between the doorway.






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