For the last four or five days, I have maneuvered my rental car through neighborhoods of my memory, though I still have not driven past the house in Kansas City that I sold in 2017.  From St. Louis to the western edge of Missouri, scenes from my past have slipped by my window.   A sense of schizophrenia rises within me.

Nearly five years have eased themselves to the cutting room floor while I struggled to regain my footing on a plush river island in the California Delta.  I come and go, from work to home, with little sense of purpose or permanence.  Smiling faces herald me but I peer at them through a mist.  Now I huddle in the home of a friend just a handful of blocks from the house in which I raised my son, to which I moved in May of 1992.  Thirty years.  A half-dozen wonderful people hauled boxes and bookcases from my midtown apartment to my new dwelling in Brookside, where my toddler would have a backyard; where two husbands would come and go seemingly without a backward glance.  I still can’t bear to think of someone else calling that place ‘home’.

At dinner last evening, one of my dearest friends twinkled at me as he has done for nearly four decades.  Do you need anything, he asked, after buying a copy of my first essay collection and paying for our delicious repast.  I assured him that I did not.  I asserted that I want for nothing of importance.  I thanked him for a generous delivery of my favorite coffee beans via the marvels of modern online ordering.  He simply smiled, nodded with a knowing and thoughtful presence, and made some mental note that will doubtless materialize as a mysterious parcel some time hence.

This morning brought one of the serial notifications of my memories stored in Google Drive.  I rarely take the bait, but today I clicked on the link which took me to the stored photographs.  Images of a smoke-filled sky over the park in which I live filled my screen.  One of the deadly raging fires north of the Delta permeated the air with ash and grit.  I checked the date; September 2020, in the throes of the pandemic.  Unprecedented in size and number, the wildfires ravaged my adopted state.  I recall taking the photographs on that morning two years ago, standing in the gravel roadway which circles the west side of our park.  My lungs filled with smoke.  As I struggled to regain my breath, enormous pity for the people of the counties on fire overtook me.  As bad as our air became, we did not battle flames.  We had no need to evacuate or to seek shelter in makeshift dwellings parked miles from our ruined homes.  Whatever woes I might lament, my little house still shelters me, and even now stands waiting for my return from my autumn sojourn in the land of my birth.

It’s the ninth day of the one-hundred and fifth month of My Year Without Complaining.  Life continues.

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