Places have memories too …

4/21/10
There was little time to rest on our laurels, as we had one more afternoon visitation to make with a long standing citizen who had great peripheral information. Dressed in dapper attire he answered the door and immediately told J how much she favored her mother. Touched by the sentiment, J gave him a hug. Gracious and giving we were invited into his home and he shared his afternoon and his memories with us. While he spoke, I made notes, answered questions and sent other names I had learned of over the weekend to R for further discovery. With each response, I cataloged the corresponding comment and redirected my line of questions to our host accordingly. His stories were amazing. So much history, both fair and foul stuffed within this town it’s a wonder the place hasn’t imploded before now. That being said, we retrieved what information we could about Charley and let the man have the remainder of his day to do other things. On the drive back, we went by way of the now infamous 4-way and moved into the evening emotionally spent with one great adventure still waiting.
As a writer I and artist, I am a visual creature and draw much from my surroundings. After my first session with R, it became important for me to not only hear and read about how Charley died, but to see what he saw in the moments before. See the headlight beams bounce off the rain slicked road- watch the bend in the tree tops under the pressure of the encroaching storm… even to walk the asphalt dip line at the edge of the road before it burst into the saw grass shoulders that bound it. It was important—all of it. Especially the bridge and the river, so I could confidently calculate the distances that separated Charley from the three witnesses and possibly even his slayer.
Places have memories too and they give them back to you if you listen long and hard enough. This was my job and the last adventure for the day was perhaps even more important than being where he had died- it was being where he had lived. While the others took in the landscape in one fashion, I took it in, in quite another. I needed to internalize it; to make it the screensaver in my head so I could re-enact the murder sequence with all the peripherals in tact for those who would come in the future to read about Charley and his last night on this earth.
We left the 4-way confident we had garnered as much information as possible for the day. Hours from breakfast we looked forward to dinner and down time. The meal was to be hosted again by J’s friend who had opened both home and hearth to us that weekend. Guilt and personal preference bid us stop at a grocery store on the way to gather additional accoutrements for the meal. Just before the turn into J’s old neighborhood- she instructed us about the 4 homes that her mother and father had built. Charley had been a contractor on the side and while the neighborhood he began was once considered country, the lane now boasted mature architecture and magnificent oaks with flowing manes of Spanish moss that welcomed us with a gentle wave. I had seen random photos early on, but they paled in comparison. A home is a living, breathing thing. And just like my 8 x10 companion, I could not hope to learn what it remembered beneath its rafters unless I could trace its silhouette against a skyline or see out from within its windowed perspective.
As we made the turn onto Lake Drive, the sun danced atop the tree line to a cricket orchestra before she slipped into her evening gown of indigo. Charmed by the view, J educated to which structures before us her father and mother had birthed. The four homes were all in a row, strung like stately pearls along a manicured curb. Their architecture nostalgic and comforting felt like a late night rerun of Leave It to Beaver. Seconds later we pulled into another friendly drive. Anxious to be about his world before I lost all daylight, I exited quickly from the car and skipped ahead. It was important to frame the moment in the context of what emotion I could coax from the house alone. The door, painted enamel black was classic and echoed by scrolls of wrought iron that ran like trellis across the face of the porch. The steps were wide and inviting, making  it easier to hear the whispers of phantom men waiting in hidden moonlight, quarelling as to who would tell Hazel the tragic news when she answered the door.
A bird flew overhead and my gaze moved vertically to the roofline. It was pleasing to the eye and sat low beneath a canopy of variegated greenery that hung heavy at the edge of the property. The house felt balanced between its length and height and hugged the sky with just the right measure of light and shadow in between. To the right a huge oak squatted amidst gnarled roots and bore the birthmark of childhood- a swing. To the left another massive oak and just beyond a carport hidden behind open brickwork that cast patterns of dappled sunlight across a concrete floor. I felt Charley there the most. Could smell the scent of masculine home ownership– car oil, mower clippings and sawdust, all tinged with sulphur,sweat and salt. He was there… watching and waiting for me to set things right. I closed my eyes and breathed him in, renewing my promise to J.

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