Tuesday, December 07, 2010

No Bank Will Ever Finance This

I ride home over the Hawthorne Bridge, sometimes in a whipping rain, sometimes under a calm moon, and serpents of light swim beneath me on the water: red, amber, green, blue, wriggling at different harmonics, depending on the wind and the uneasiness of the river, but all of them, always, swimming upstream, trying to find their way up the Willamette to Eugene, I suppose, where I was spawned. Light, sky, water.

My mind returns to the river and the sky, working with them again and again, like those little puzzle-toys of wood and wire. What happens if you solve them? Do they come apart? If so, can you put them together again?

A friend asked how I was doing, and I answered: sometimes I feel like I'm carrying a tray of glasses someone filled to the brim with grief, & I have nowhere to put it down.

It's tedious, I know: I remain tethered like one of those cold dogs you see waiting outside a supermarket, shivering and shifting on its paws. Sometimes the temptation to do something is very strong. But I think my job right now is to wait.

A Latina woman raking leaves, her pit bull gamboling beside her at the chain link fence: a quick bright animal with an enormous broad head. He had a friendly aspect, but I didn't reach out over the fence to pat him. She told us the place had been empty for years, except for raccoons and rats. She didn't know the story. She warmed to us as she talked, and we warmed to her.

The place was full of abandoned stuff. Little House on the Prairie books. Mildew. Cardboard boxes half-packed. We found a trapdoor in a closet, which dropped down into a cellar -- a hole dug in the dirt -- about six feet square and not high enough to stand in: ghostly canning jars on a shelf drifted with dirt and dust. A fresh, gleaming pile of raccoon scat on the floor: apparently on hearing our approach, someone had hurriedly lightened ship and put to sea.

Could people live in it, or even camp in it while they built the real house out back? We weren't sure. It was on what they call a flag lot, almost double-sized -- in the center of the block, in back of everyone else's back yard. There were some dead and dying trees that would have to be taken down, but others that were vigorous. Holes in a bank of earth out back that I took to be rat dwellings. The realtor, who treated us warily -- probably taking our interest in the place as evidence of mental instability -- viewed it with undiguised horror. “One thing I can tell you,” he said, with admirable frankness, “no bank will ever finance this.”

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