A few years ago I thought to look up my last Connecticut address in Google Street View, but evidently that barren section of Waterbury had yet to be surveyed by the fellows at Google.
At the time, I thought, It’s just as well. Why would I want to see it?
But today as I was driving to work I was struck again with the random urge to find my old home. And I typed in my address, and there it was, which I share with you now.
Mine was the one marked 95.
When I lived there in the early 80’s, things were much tidier. The elderly German lady who lived in the unit to the right swept her porch and steps every day. The Italian lady several doors down served as my surrogate grandmother and fashioned a pergola in a backyard where she could grow grapes for her homemade wine. A city councilman lived several doors up.
The porches in my day were in fairly good repair, and our meager front yard was covered in landscaper’s wood chips with a few newly-planted shrubs. Clearly the subsequent owners found the wood chips to be far more maintanence than they bargained for.
Yes, things were much more tidy, but that tidieness belied the sad and lonely existance that I lived behind those walls. An existance that included a bullying step-father, a complicit mother, and my will, feelings, wishes, and hopes disregarded in a daily basis.
For four years I existed in this way, until one sunny day in November of 1985, when, following a last skirmish with my step-father, I waited for him to leave for work, and then I packed a suitcase. A cab picked me up at the door and took me to my bank, where I emptied my savings account, and then on the bus station, where I purchased my tickets to Florida. I rode all day and most of the night, until our bus stopped in Washington, D.C. and a police office boarded, looked around, and spotted me.
After confirming my identity, he cuffed me and delivered me to a juvenile detention center, where I spent one week among teenaged prostitutes and other various criminals – who were all rather nice to me, actually – before I was spirited back to Connecticut to spend a month in foster care.
Finally, my mother agreed to surrendering custody of me to my father, and in January, I boarded a plane to Florida. Which was where I was going in the first place.
Over time – years and years, really – I reconciled with my mother and learned to tolerate my step-father. It was a process. Many times over the years I returned to visit my home state, but as luck would have it, I never returned to that brownstone, not once. On that day in November of my thirteenth year, I made the gutsiest move I had ever made in my life by walking out that door and into my future, and that place has been disappearing into my rearview ever since.