Chipped bubblegum walls, nail-sized hole in the ceiling
from the Christmas morning Dad hung a princess canopy
over the quilted twin bed and I, being just 5 earthly years,
nearly died of rejoicing. There’s a snowglobe collection
(Kansas City, The Big Apple, some Canadian province
with a funny name) hidden next to stacks of early-2000s
DVDs dusted over by 18 years of girlhood magic. From that
window I used to watch the tulip poplar rooted in our yard
blossom and shed like an honorable prostitute. I remember
when she finally succumbed to the kind of malignant cancer
ancient trees inherit and the bad men in trucks came to uproot
and dethrone her and kidnap my only friend away. That day
they left an abyss in the ground still so terribly unnatural that
even now our grass only grows deep green around it, as if forever
stunted by what unspeakable crime (the breaking of my heart)
had been committed there.
I want to tell you another story
about that window and the foreign flavors it offered me. The
awkward stage of my 13th spring I perched there with Dad’s
pocket-sized binoculars to observe, with my freckled girl friend,
the boy with the floppy brown almost-mullet playing Shirts
versus Skins on the sloping field by the middle school we attended.
We’d just watch, illiterate in the male species, giggling through
tight braces like schoolgirls because that’s exactly what we were.
3 years later a boy with a different name stood beneath the window
as valiant and hormonal as Shakespeare’s Romeo and “promposed”
to me with pink roses in his hand by reading poetry from computer
paper written in Crayola marker. I said yes yes yes (and ran like mad
downstairs to thank him for letting me play his blushing Juliet).
In that room I grew to be small and jealous and in love
with worlds apart from it. That place is now a portal
to a dimension where I was once innocent enough to believe
in simple things: bedtime prayers, the oak desk permanently
stained with yellow acrylic paint, dog-eared books (Sylvia Plath’s
Ariel, my adolescent journals, The Velveteen Rabbit, The Nutcracker Ballet,
an unread copy of Anna Karenina) tucked in secret nooks, Polaroids
of now-strangers ruined by terrible exposure, names
of pop star crushes I scrawled on the wall behind my mattress.
Nothing vaguely unholy ever happened there, in that
suburban dollhouse of a room where the inimitable smells
of summer (neighbor’s barbecue, bug spray, sidewalk chalk,
chlorine and backyard sprinkler) wafted in, and I took it all in,
inhaled every atom of it, because I was young and because
there was nothing better to do and no one better to be.