Locust House Variations, A Weekly Fiction Column by Adam Gnade, “October Story, Part 4 of 5”
Before I left San Diego, I drove around town in the car I’d borrowed and bought 10 burritos to put in my suitcase. I stayed up all night in the bedroom of the house I grew up in. I DM’d and sent texts to friends. “Great to see you.” “Hoping to come back in December.” “Glad we caught up.”
I left the house at 1am and walked the streets. Walked along the shoreline from Reed Avenue to Tourmaline beach, the moon high and the water shining silver on the faces of the waves as they broke. From up the beach you could see bonfires, tiny red flares in the darkness. The bars along the boardwalk were packed with loud, shouting people, and neon light lit up the sky above them in a colorless halo.
I walked past the first house my family lived at after I was born—1319 Missouri Street. The only memories I have of it are from grainy Super-8 videos of me playing in the backyard. Which means I only have memories of the videos. Not the place. (Still, they’re memories.)
I walked past the corner where Richard the Famous Bike Jumper in a senseless teenage rage beat the hell out of a palm tree with his bike, swinging it from the back tire like a battle axe. I walked past the houses of childhood best friends who are now adults with kids and wives. I walked past the rec center where the Halloween carnival happened each year, past my junior high where I first wanted to die, past the private school I went to in second grade when my mother heard the second grade teacher at our public school was “bad” in some way.
I walked down streets that were once sketchy and are now much nicer—the raggedy homes with old boats in yards and the lawns of yellow crab grass gone, the abandoned lots filled up with new condos and Spanish-tiled homes with security lights and mission arches and iron wrought fences.
At some point I walked back home and opened the wooden gate as quietly as I could and shut it behind me, making sure to lock it from inside as my parents had asked. (“Lotta crime in the neighborhood now that it’s nicer,” they tell me.) At dawn I packed up my 10 burritos in one of the cardboard boxes that my books come in, stuffed the extra space with new clothes I’d bought as gifts, and filled the rest of the bag with shoes, books, records, cassette tapes, chocolate bars, eucalyptus pods I’d picked up in Santa Cruz, and the extra jeans and t-shirts I’d brought with me.
In the middle of packing, I pulled the blinds down then dressed in clean clothes that were identical to what I’d worn the night before—tight black jeans, black t-shirt with the sleeves cut off. Over that, my old denim jacket that now smelled like a gross version of the beach.
When I opened the blinds again, the morning light through the window next to the bed was gray—bright gray. June gloom is what we called it growing up here. Of course it’s October now. (Though how can you tell?)
As I finished packing, I watched the fog come rolling through the streets in a soft, crumbling wall so slow you couldn’t see it move—only if you looked away. If you looked away, you could tell it had moved eastward, blowing in slow off the sea.
My parents are selling their home and leaving the neighborhood.
This is how I will remember it.
– Adam Gnade