Everywhere I used to go is gone, or at least, the people who made it worth going to have gone. The rink where I used to skate now sits empty. The snowball stand where I used to go to buy flavoured shaved ice topped with goopy marshmallow cream, and the greenhouse where we used to get the Christmas tree every year and walk up and back singing, even as recently as the year before last, is closed, falling softly to ruin, a few postapocalyptic plants growing fiercely, surrounded by the dried sticks of other more delicate species.
What hasn’t changed? My father’s house is still painted a shade of tree-frog green, my mother’s fireplace is still mosaiced with glass in every colour of the rainbow. Everything is dustier than I remember it, although that’s probably because I notice such things, living with my squeaky-clean roommate. Heaven knows I never dusted a thing while I was here.
Of my two cats, one died–she was a very old lady cat– and the other has gone partially incontinent and pisses on my mother’s long hand-sewn curtains that drag on the floor. Two other cats have somehow wandered in over the years, and my cat detests those two as much as she detested the old grey lady.
Neither of my parents have wi-fi, although they at least have ethernet rather than dial-up.
What hasn’t changed? The two friends of mine who still live here and with whom I still talk haven’t changed– much. The rastaman fried fish seller at the Sunday farmer’s market still shouts with a smile in his voice, “Sea trout, get your seeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeea trout, best fish on Planet Earth!” Tired uninsured people still pool around the entrance to the community clinic, waiting for it to open, slouched in their wheelchairs, some sitting cross-legged or laid out on the tile, eyes half closed, exactly the same scene I used to see walking past an urban clinic in Bujumbura. And the Lebanese bakery, which I’ve only visited a few times, with its quiet, crumbling peach and maroon facade, exactly the same chipping peach and maroon as when I got a dripping baklava from the nice Lebanese man, not long after we moved into this neighbourhood, my mother and I, more than 20 years ago.
Pour les francophones, ceci reflete bien ma fin de semaine…