by Kim Smith, copyright 2015
by Kim Smith
Coming home is like breathing in a dust storm. You can do it, but you might die, and if you don’t do it, you will certainly die.
My return pulled at me like so many hands plucking my sleeve. Memories engulfed me. Surviving this visit would be hard, but that didn’t stop me from climbing off the train in Memphis. The familiar scenery hit me like a blues song. Coming home, being alone, feeling gone, all done.
The acrid scent of hot pavement, and roses wafted up. Crepe myrtles in fiery array all down Riverside Drive greeted me, and I looked up to see people on the bluffs enjoying the sights and sun. I joined them for a little while, sitting and waiting for that glimmer of hope that happened at the end of every day when you live near water. The hope called sunset, hope of a better tomorrow.
Sunsets over the Mississippi River is all gold and red and orange, and when the shadows fall and darkness swamps the whole area, a sojourner could feel lost. Loss of bearings, loss of self-lost forever in what might have been, not what had been, for what had been had done its worst and moved on. I moved on too, down the cobblestones slanting down to the river and my past.
Beale Street was the same as ever. Music spilled out of each doorway like a private concert being played just for me as I passed. The sounds of broken conversations, the tinkle of beer mugs being passed about, all created a symphony of sound that made me want to go inside.
But I didn’t. I kept moving. My heartbreak like a guitar strung around my neck, hanging useless waiting to be picked up and turned into life again.
When I arrived at Meemaw’s house, I knew coming home was just the period at the end of a sentence with no meaning. I had to come here. The old place brought tears to my eyes and washed away some of the misery inside my heart. The ramshackle building hosted a long well-used porch, complete with porch swing, now aloof and lonely. Maybe being here would fill the emptiness that traveling had not. Maybe my loss would find company here.
Out back, I could hear Pappy scraping food from a plate into the dog’s pan. The old flea-ridden Beagle shook her whole body as she waited happily, anticipating the morsels he’d put there. He straightened and saw me.
I greeted him and was embraced with a toothless smile. A welcome home. A “so sorry it has to be this way”. He didn’t have to tell me. He felt the loss as much as I did. No matter how far away I’d roam, I’d never forget the tears filling his eyes as he spoke of her.
We went into the living room where the worn out flowered sofa sat looking forlorn as if it wanted Meemaw to come and lie on it again. I knew I did. Pappy did. The place was never going to be the same without her.
Coming home was as bittersweet as missing the last piece of Meemaw’s best chocolate pie. But being home was as twice as welcome. I was home. Home was where life began.
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