Some of my earliest memories took place in that home.
Perhaps even my first memory, though it was hard to know anything for sure after so many years. Everything that old had a way of changing, and with whatever glass my mind’s eye looked through, those years were tinted. Foggy like a pair of glasses going inside during the winter.
Had I been asked to recall one specific memory from within those walls, I’m not sure I could have done it. That said, I did savour an almost reminiscent comfort the small bungalow seemed to ebb as I walked by. Distinct memories or not, the home was familiar in the sort of way that needed no specific remembrance. The smile on my face was proof of that.
Under the strength of a sun that seemed a little brighter than normal, I craned my neck for one last look at the house before moving on.
It was a gorgeous day for a walk.
Before long I came upon my first school, the scene of many far more divisive memories than the home I’d just left behind. What I could remember was convoluted, leaving a nervous smile on my face that to anyone looking might seem to be slipping. From my first ill-fated romance, to the one and only physical fight of my life, that school had dealt its fair share of blows. The face and name of my opponent from the fight that bygone day were fragments that had long since left me, but the face of my mother as she’d answered the school’s call stood as clear in my head as the blue skies that stretched above me. Despite the near rabid fear that still clung to that memory even after all those years, I laughed heartedly.
Turning a street corner to forget that old centre of the universe, I ended up on a road that brought back my smile in full.
Cutting straight through a deceivingly plain park, the gravel trail was one responsible for the remainder of my memories that concerned my mother and her temper. As I thought back through the catalogue of stories that had all started along the worn path, I could almost see my mother’s face of outrage soften over the years, until eventually little more than a poorly hidden smile. Despite some of those drunken evenings I was lucky to survive, and the numerous cruiser taxi rides home, I couldn't think of anywhere I had ever felt as free as I did in the park surrounding me.
It seemed a lifetime ago.
At the very end of the path there was a hill that climbed up rather steeply. Though I couldn't see it yet, I knew there lay a series of studious buildings up top that would be busier because of the sun above. I couldn't help but groan as I reached and climbed up that slope again, though I was far from hungover, and my knees didn’t so much as squeak.
Perhaps such thing was just instinct.
Unable to spot my cell of a room they’d dared to advertise as ‘luxurious,’ I was able to find another of importance. One once belonging to a woman who oddly felt nearby, despite the fact I walked alone.
The early memories of my wife and I stood bright in my head like a dying star surrounded by its children. Time spent with friends. Evenings spent together. Trips to the beach and feeling the sun in the sand as we’d trade work and responsibilities for swimming and eating. I wanted very much then to stay and remember those times, but something in the back of my mind told me I mustn't be late for where I was going.
I couldn't help but think again how wonderful a day it was for walking.
I quickly forgot about the school that had seen me into adulthood though as I wondered onto another street.
In a house that could only be called a house like a smartcar could be called a car, Jacob had been born. And as much as I liked to complain, the home that had seen my son brought into the world was one that had served us as well as we’d had any right to back then. Peeling paint and mouldy basements aside, we’d laughed more than we’d cried there, and like words carried in the wind, something told me that was no small thing.
I was still laughing when it fell out of sight and quickly out of mind.
It was a few moments of quiet walking before I could say with some certainty where I was again.
There was a thick smell of salt in the air accompanied by the cry of a few hungry seagulls, but I would have known even without those tells.
A part of me asked why all of a sudden I was at the ocean, but it was not a question I felt I needed to answer. In fact, I was happy to let it fade until it was light enough to be swept away by the seaside breeze and forgotten about entirely.
The home before me now remained my favourite of all I had ever lived in. When we’d first laid eyes on the place it had struck both of us as the kind of home we’d been looking for, despite not once having put to words what exactly that was. My memories of this place were so plentiful they almost leapt forward on their own accord, but my feet kept walking and I could do little to slow them down and think each old thought through. In the moment before passing out of my home’s shadow and leaving it to that old corner of my mind though, I chose to remember the birth of my daughters, and the look of absolute surprise on my wife’s face that followed those nine long hours. A moment I remember laughing harder than any other coming before, having had helped her paint their room a dark and very irreversible blue.
As the sea disappeared I returned to streets of concrete and winds that felt cool against my skin. I didn’t pay much mind to the fact the sea should have been hundreds of miles away.
I was more interested in how the light in the sky was dimming, the sun having had fallen behind a row of houses that lined either side of the road I walked.
On my right now stood the hospital they’d first brought me to, a building of angry grey rooms that had at times stretched for miles, and men and women of tired smiles easily wiped away. Why I was here now I couldn't begin to guess, but I felt my own smile slip from my face as I tried all the same. I hated the familiarity I felt when I looked up at the ugly building that was St. Mary’s. Memories that seemed too young to be true hounded my mind, and I looked away in pain.
I did not want to think about it.
To my relief the hospital was soon overtaken by another home I could vaguely recognize, one that although I did not like, I still much preferred to the stained curtains of St. Mary’s. In a memory that was nothing more than the snippet of a conversation, I thought I could hear the voices of my children telling me I’d be better off closer by.
I wondered what they meant by that.
As I neared the building, I noticed curiously that the lights in my room were on. I had trouble bringing to mind why that might be when I myself was outside of course, but decided after a moment my wife was busy doing something important inside. I reconsidered though when my eyes fell to the parking lot that stood between me and my home. There were at least three cars nearby and I frowned, recognizing all of them. Why my wife and children were inside without me was something I did not know.
Perhaps they were planning a party.
A gentle breeze returned as I left behind that last place I could not remember so well.
The street that stretched before me now was one I did not recognize at all, and after everything, that surprised me most. It was long, and although I was staring right at it, I couldn’t quite make anything out. It was like everything more than a few feet in front of me lay behind an opaline curtain that was slowly being dragged back as I walked forward. Some part of me didn’t think that was normal, but I wasn't sure anymore.
Oddly recognizing a feeling as though I were in the company of others, I followed the road with some curiosity as that milky curtain got nearer and nearer. I wondered if I was speeding up, or it was slowing down.
Just before reaching it, I let out a tired breath.
What a walk it had been.
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