I think I should put Jackson on our Christmas card list. He's become a regular feature in the small circle of my life. Yesterday afternoon he pulled to a stop at the curb, and when I started to speak to him, he shook his head and went back to scrutinizing his notebook. After a few minutes, he flipped it closed and drove further up the street where he parked. My New Friend the Cast Iron Sculptor looked quizzically at me when I took him some lemon chess pie a few minutes later. I dunno. I said before he asked. I guess it's just that time of day. Seeing the police, talking to the police, questioning the police, and being questioned ourselves is something that happens almost every day now. Laura hasn't been seen in a week or more, but when I saw him at the Southern Conference on Cast Iron Art on Saturday, my neighbor told me he heard her moving around in the dark and waterless apartment at night. I imagine she's become some sort of Kafka-esque beetle creature thriving on heroin and waking up at night. I wouldn't be surprised to see she'd grown a few hairy and segmented legs if I met her on the street. I don't know how you can live up there without water, he said, but he cut the hose she was running from his faucet to her window anyway. I don't blame him. I hate her, he says, and I agree, much to my own chagrin. I told my neighbor about my conflicting emotions. A body can only take so much before compassion wears thin, he said. This is true. For all of us who aren't Christ.
I came inside to make supper and I walked into our bedroom to get my white apron from the end of our bed. For some reason, I had left the curtain open. I almost never do that, but so hungry for the sun and the green Chinaberry leaves was I that I broke with tradition and let the sunshine in. As I went to close it, I found myself eye to eye with one of three cops standing in my back and side yard with drawn rifles. Get away from the window. Get away from the window now, one of them said. I flattened myself on the floor and pressed my face into the heartwood boards in my bedroom. I crawled into the kitchen on my belly to avoid being caught in the crossfire that might have ricocheted through the window and all around the bedroom where I sleep. From this vantage point, I found my missing slipper hidden under the bed and realized how far I have traveled from where I first began.
I didn't want to move here. I wanted to stay in Vestavia Hills in a safe little ranch house near the supermarket. But moved here we did with the encouragement of friends who no longer speak to us to be close to a church that no longer wants us. It was a foolish move. And I suppose I'm a fool, but as I watch my tomatoes grow on the front stoop and laugh at my brother-in-law's story of having been reprimanded by his neighborhood association for having let too many sticks fall in his yard, as I see the sparks fly from my neighbor's furnace at Sloss, as I laugh too loudly over too much Southern Comfort on my front porch, as I smell barbecue cooking at the neighborhood rib joint at six in the morning, as I see plants first introduced to my flowerbeds fifty years ago start to sprout again, I realize that I'm home. I'm home. I'm home sandwiched between a wannabe rock band and and a motley crew of iron artists who always have dirty hands. I'm home in a yard with a garden unplanned and a freedom to sit on my front porch and swig straight from the bottle. I'm free to laugh too loudly. I'm free to not be nice. I'm free. Sometimes, I'm on my face on the floor, but then again, sometimes I'm not. I was mislead into this Egypt, but what Evil meant for evil, God meant for good. No church or person will ever help this city, but by the grace of God, maybe this city will help us.