Bristow Road (c. 2011)
In memory of Virginia. For she is always resting in peace, and more so now that I live in New York City, but she will always be alive.
May 4, 2011
The summer was memorable. My friend Joshua and I took drives across the countryside, but always ended up at the old church’s field and river on Bristow Road. We ran, racing against the sequences of the wind, barefoot, intertwined through our speed and scratchy throats from the inhaled pollen. The grass ran thick where we laid to view the clouds. We laughed, in commemoration of the fornication of the skies, in the open where we untied our bare feet. We fished in the river with green grass to feed, the bait of the earth, on the edge of the hook. We caught butterflies and poetry, sitting peacefully, reading on the edge of the bank. Waiting for our next bite, I dug my bare toes into the dirt, feeling the earth beneath my skin. As I buried my feet the cool dirt seeped into the pores of my hands, making outlines of my wrinkled palms. I sat back against the large trunk of the Oak tree behind me as I reminisced on past advice from my father. “What’s a man if he ain’t got no head to think with?” (Then he’s just limbs, skin, and bones, isn’t he?) I turned over to lie in the grass, to change the scenery in my mind, and as I did, the wind whipped up and took the hat from my head. I followed it into the river and as shallow as the bottom floor was, I sunk in deep.
It’s a little past winter now and the buds are starting to bloom for spring. I take Bristow Road frequently; the twelve-mile road connecting my old house, where I spent my childhood, to my new house, where I grew into an adult. The grassy terrain displays old battlefields and new suburban houses, where old souls walked and new souls run. The old church delegates the town, structured in the center of the field of wheat. Constructed of white brick, dusted with pollen, the church is an undersized rectangle with a lofty steeple and two small windows for each wall. Where the steeple protrudes from the roof, a bell tower stands at the south of the building. The ghost of my past creeps up on me as I walk closer and closer to the church. The skies are bare, lacking any sign of cloud formation, and the trees seem to transplant themselves from east to west. The air is dry, making it difficult for me to breathe. As intertwined as we were in the summer past, this place is dead. I’m beginning to feel nostalgic. I came alone to visit the field behind the church. It’s cold for April, and the overcast sky lays a soft blanket of gray over the wheat, which is now thick like stalks of celery, wilted at the tips. Trying to get a feel for the field that used to be our summer bliss, I lie down on the burial ground of matted down wheat and winter insects caught underneath, looking up at the insipid sky. In due time the thick prickles of wheat dig into my back and I sit up, dizzy and melancholic. I brush myself off and walk toward the river. Muddied with the pollution of the previous season, the river runs slowly, chalky, and feels vacant of any living organism. Disappointed, I walk back up the hill to drive home. As I shut the car door, I found a remnant of grass still tucked beneath my sleeve. It’s a simple reminder of picnicking in the summer without a blanket and watching the squirrels climb from tree to tree, and the spiders twirl their webs from branch to branch, like novelists in the gaps between the trees.
I asked Joshua if he had been back to our summer field. He said it was barren, dead, and decrepit, just like the old church, just like our affection for each other. The paint was chipping off of the white walls, exposing the red brick underneath. The bell was rusted and the glass was broken in two of the windows. The smell of the overgrown grass and excessive wheat toppled over wheat was old, stale and musty; something I recognized right away during my visitation. He saw the death of a place and the death of a love that grew in its field. He saw everything that I had seen today. I saw everything from my past in an instant of remiss, like a leaf chasing the wind and landing slowly on the ground with the same syncopated rhythm as my tender heart beating against my chest.
On occasion I take Bristow Road to visit the old church but also my old neighborhood, in search for comfort in reminiscence. I long to hear the soft rumble of the engine traveling against the gravel, the dirt path leading to my childhood sanctuary— my old house, found deep within the branches of thousand year old trees, it stands in the comfortable serenity between several different species of maples and oaks. My car drives down the long private road with gravel shooting up from the tires in every direction. In recognition of my presence, the trees bend forward, arching the clouded sky above the narrow road and grimly smile with their chipped bark. I see unfamiliar cars parked in the long drive, both gate doors open, allowing strangers to peek between the branches, and worst of all, the largest oak missing. I sit in my car, draw the blood back from my face, and sit pale in disgust, watching the visitors move back and forth in a house where they don’t belong. Almost a glass house, you can see into its soul by just a glance into its bay windows, which are now cheapened by a modern look on society. Sheer curtains hang in the large bay window near the kitchen, where they are out of place in the country home. I feel attached because this is my place of birth; my first decade and a half of existence took place in this house. But in life, everything moves on, just like time, just like the weather, just like the wind, just like love.
Bristow has become my southern comfort, the structure I needed in order to build my brain into adulthood. I moved into a half circle of townhouses, each identical to the next. At first I was disgusted by the similarities, but when I realized that the depths of the woods manipulated my sanity, I grew accustomed to the routine society in Bristow. I am no longer free to run through my two acres of yard, as it is now two feet long. I am no longer free to paint my house bright colors, as it now has to follow the mundane paint rubric of the Home Owners Association. Although the two houses, my old and the new, are only located twelve miles apart, they are in two completely different worlds: one of homemakers and homemade pumpkin pies and the other of busybodies and store-bought cherry filling. The different tastes lingered on my tongue for months until I was able to get used to the new. Now the simplicity of life in the suburbs keeps me content. I grow in accordance to the weather, and the weather grows accustomed to my new pair of household keys.
Whether I’m in a three acre house, painted dusty blue, shaded by great Maples and Oaks, or a small house connected to my neighbor’s, with eggshell siding and a small cherry tree, I seamlessly grow. Whether I crack underneath the heat of the sun and in the harsh cold of winter’s wind, like the old church, or I flow freely like the river in the peak of summer’s love, I will seamlessly grow. I find reverence on Bristow Road in the deep forests, the winding hills, the quaint suburban life, the dusty rural farms, the rickety overpass bridges, and the scenic river; all of which make my home feel twelve miles long.