Sunday, I drove to the old neighborhood. I hadn’t been there for years. The corner store is boarded up now and a black spiked fence surrounds the school. I remembered how strange it was living across from a school, how busy it would get in the mornings with all the cars double parked and buses pulling in. Then it would become suddenly silent. Doors shut. Sometimes we’d hear the kids on the playground at recess. In the afternoon, the whole thing would start again. My son had just begun kindergarten when we lived there. He was getting used to school but was still cautious. Sometimes I find him staring across the street at it before he went to bed, like he wasn’t sure what to make of this whole business.
That year he learned to ride a bike. Evenings, on the sidewalk in front of the school, I would run behind his bicycle. With the sun setting, the building looked like a ship, something that carried him out to sea in the morning and brought him back later, pale and weak-kneed. The flagpole was like a mast swaying in the sky, and waves of shadows lapped against the stone steps. He’d pedal on- fighting to stay afloat, his small body sailing past the empty windows. Afterwards, we’d walk the bike across the street to our house. That was a long time ago.
But it was Sunday now and the school yard was quiet. I parked across from our old house. It looked awful. It had never been a prize, that’s for sure, but now it had no curtains, only shades pulled down, and the yard was just dead weeds. I thought maybe it was abandoned but a woman in a Dodge sedan pulled into the driveway and waited, left the car running, didn’t honk or anything and after a while, a youngish girl came out. She had on a wool skirt, dark hair hung in front of her face. She got in on the passenger side and they didn’t seem to greet each other or maybe the movements were so small that I couldn’t tell. And I realized whatever their relationship was, mother/daughter, aunt/niece, some sort of friends, that they were going to church together. The woman put the car in reverse and turned her head, She looked directly at my car parked in front of the school but I don’t think she saw me. She sat for a moment, waiting for some cars to pass. It was always a tough driveway to back out of.