The Listening Place

There’s a house I often jog by. Describing it that way is probably generous. It’s the picture of ramshackle and I’ve always had a strange feeling running past. Not strange enough to stop me. Sometimes I’ll cross to the other side of the street to put some distance between me and the unpleasantness.  Other times I’ll slow down and stare at its boarded up windows and wonder what it might have been like years ago.

Before it was a meth kitchen or hoarder’s den or someone’s neglected burden. There’s a giant plywood sign in the sprawling yard with the address in stilted block letters, pieced together by what looks like duct tape.  As though this is a destination people must be looking for on a regular basis.  Behind this muffled bid for attention, choking shrubbery tightens its grip, ready to reclaim the house for itself. Indifferent to whatever has taken place inside it.

Weeks would go by, and notices would accumulate on the door like layers of dust. I could almost watch the English Ivy spread its strangle hold across the slanting garage, the same way the sidewalk cracks seemed to widen with each run.

I stopped cold the last pass I made, feet tripping to a sudden halt. Where the structure had been no more than a day or two ago, smoke spilled up from a crater of earth. Debris littered the once green grass, as though however it went, it had been explosive. There’s a new sign nearer the road, “Future Site: Denny Community Gardens.” I stay there, staring until it hurts.  Watching the rubble smolder into the rain, smelling the crackle of singed grass.  I’m exhausted, miles from home while the rain reaches the point of chuckle-worthy downpour.

The feeling on this stretch of sidewalk is still strange, a mix of relief and incredulity.  One day I’ll jog by this lot to find raised beds full of tomatoes and squash, strings of snow peas and starts of spinach, all abuzz with a life that seems completely ignorant of, and totally dependant on, the past.

For now, it’s a stinging reminder that transformations don’t come cheap.


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