Int. Seminar 1
The Weightless Footprints on the Far End of the Street
The street of my childhood was split down the middle and from end to end. The first end of the street existed 40 years in the past whilst lying dormant in the future. Each seventies style split-level home had the same geometric features: a triangular roof, coated in a peculiar pastel color, sat itself delicately on top of a square-shaped one-car garage, which lay just below the rectangle that held the kitchen and living space. The homes wafted the scent of a humble existence the same way cooked vegetables fill the kitchen with the promising scent of a grand Thanksgiving feast. The arms of the road and fences welcomed the many cars, dog walkers, and slow joggers to enter and to view the extravagant nothingness. Looking at it, one could taste the remnants of the sugar he had sprinkled into his overly bitter coffee. Something was sweet about it: the charming homes, identical to one another, resting comfortably on top of lush, little hills. However, that something sweet was also something left over, like a birthday cake in the fridge or pink lemonade in the sun. It was beautiful, haunting, and out-of-context.
The old part of the street had something tender to offer the families and visitors. There were characters to be invented and stories to be told on that end of the street. Brainard once wrote, “I remember many dreams of finding gold and jewels” and each person seemed to be a pearl waiting to be shucked from an oyster (I Remember, Brainard, 1) . There was not a lot to be said about the woman who watered her plants each day from three in the afternoon until eight at night, or the elderly couple who routinely held funeral rehearsals at their home, but there was certainly plenty to be imagined about them. Children used to share ghost stories of the guests who used to visit the couple, and believed that there was a coffin for each neighbor on the street hidden in the couple’s attic. They even imagined that the hearse parked in front of the home was driven by Death himself. The dusty blues, faded whites, and greying yellows of the homes seemed to melted into the ground, sky, and each other as the sight of them blurred and withered like an old Easter dress. The frays of yesterday were clearly visible as children’s clothes would get filthy with the old mud peeping out of fresh grass. The grass, however, would soon wither as it approached the creek leading into the other, split, end of the street.
The other end of the street was where other people lived. They had bright white or brick homes. The paint was oppressive. The brick was unweathered. The houses looked like museums or marble mausoleums, either way, there was no free entry. The road was cushy there, and protected their car tires from scratching, and their children from falling. If a child should tumble and scrape his knee, the crimson blood would stain the pristine grey street, and warn the child to go back to where he and his blood could not be seen. The people were equally as polished and peculiar as their street. They were invisible and their children were invisible. Yet, one could still see the remnants of what little life they lead.
There were details of life, but there were no signs of true waking life on the other end of the street. The most expensive luxury cars would be in the long, paved, stone driveway–even when it was raining. Even the water droplets seemed too afraid to cry onto the “M1NIatus” license plate of the red MINI Cooper. The children’s multi-colored playground would be tucked away behind the opaque, crystalline pools. The water springing from their water fountains danced as an imaginary rhythm hummed for them. There was no sound, no scenery, no vision. The others who lived there did not appear to live at all.
I will never forget the year I was friends with one of the invisible children. Her name was as common as a stutter, and it appeared to do just that, as everyone else had the same name. Her face was common too, with plain and almost fictional features. Her personality was conjured up from old textbooks on child behavior and the traditional ideals of girlhood. She seemed almost too ordinary to the point where she became imagined, and I suppose that is how her parents kept her invisible for so long. We played unusual games with her unusual toys: she had a large trampoline in her basement, a grand ball pit with a ladder for children to climb and jump into the sea of red, green, and blue orbs, a floppy teddy bear with the proportions of a real grizzly, a plush display of the night sky–the planets had gnarled faces as the layers of fabric folded over themselves, Jupiter was the most ominous–and dolls, which could not be taken of their collector’s edition packaging. Everything we played with never agreed to the pulling, scratching, and biting of a child. They were big, unmoving, and hardly felt like toys at all.
One day, I asked how old she was, and I discovered she was only a year younger than me. I was surprised because she had the strangest toys and the least colorful bedroom I had ever seen for a child. I asked her about her favorite book, and she told me she could not read. This again surprised me, because everyone learned to read in Kindergarten, which she would have been in. When I asked her who her teacher was, her mom entered the room and asked me to go home for the evening. I left that night with a sense of foreboding. While the invisible girl showed me everything she had, she still kept many secrets and lived in a world completely hidden from the outside. At six years old, the only secrets I knew about were the ones in which the sharer and I would both put our pointer finger to our lips and hiss loudly to ensure the secret was protected. These secrets were different. These secrets were not to protect somebody. Instead, they were used to keep somebody from getting in.
I never understood why she was not allowed out of the house, and why I never saw her in school, until two years later. I was walking home from the first day of school, when I saw the invisible girl get off the bus. It was the very first time I had seen her since the evening her mom sent me home to my end of the street. I would say she looked the same as before, only she did not. She looked uncomfortable, agitated, and out of place. The bus dropped off all of the students on the old street, and the woman tending to her garden delighted in waving to us as we passed by her home. The invisible girl was squirming, grunting, and terribly unhappy. She was walking along side her visible friend, so I said “hello.” The invisible girl gave me a hollow gaze, but her friend cheerfully waved to me from behind her. She and I began talking about school, cartoons, and books, all while the invisible girl was silent. As the visible friend and I began to laugh, she was pulled aside.
“Listen” roared the invisible girl. “This side, where we are, is the poor side of the street. Where we are going, my side, is the rich side of the street.”
There was a loud ring of silence thundering through my ears. There were no secrets anymore. I understood why the invisible girl was not allowed to see me. The distance between our plush planets was marked. Suddenly, her friend’s small voice croaked, “which side of the street do you live on, Megan?” I couldn’t answer her question because I was walking into my driveway on the poor side of the street.