samoline avenue — an excerpt from a work in progress.

samoline avenue, circa 1981; photographed by pan ellington.

I beat my alarm by two minutes, this day beginning for me like they all do. Up at six thirty to be at school by eight, I clear my eyes, feel them focus on the textured ceiling of my bedroom, probably toxic, and long since destroyed by Cat Madigan and I on one of our infamous afternoons, one in particular when we’d reveled in the act of scratching our names, among other phrases, into the ceiling with the point of one of my cymbal stands.

My room sits in the back of what was once a place to build dreams — a large, sprawling, tract home with its own little details and quirks, sitting one from the corner, across from Dovie and next door to Mrs. Wilson, on a curvy avenue in safe suburbia, white bread America, the home of Karen Carpenter — Downey, California. It wasn’t meant to be a bedroom, I don’t think, more like an office or bonus room, with kitschy 1970’s built ins and that, cabinets along the base of the outside wall, one corner in custom bulletin board, the other side a book case, another wall a sliding glass entrance. Or exit. Depending on how you wanna look at it.

It was my Mother’s other daughter’s before mine and unremarkable in her care — a lone brass day bed below the decor of just two posters, Peter Frampton and The Eagles, three if you count the one my Mother tacked to the bedroom door, John Travolta posing Saturday Night and pursed lips. It’s mine now, though, make no mistake, and much more interesting, frankly, my aesthetic inspired in no small part by one Mister Ferris Bueller. I’d seen it with Harry, I think I was twelve, thirteen, maybe. Both of us freaked the fuck out. Me because I’d seen in the character something I’d seen in myself. And Harry because, as he put it,

“You’re not going to start cutting school, now, are you?”

I’d immediately went to work and started by collaging the custom bulletin board, no real plan in mind, honestly, first with the new Calvin Klein ads. It’s weird, the things I find myself fascinated with, now that I’m thinking about it. It wasn’t long, though, before the bulletin board proved itself woefully inadequate for my vision, I had no other choice but to let my paper amoeba crawl slowly outside the bounds of the lines, adding in magazine photos of Madonna, Cindy Crawford, Theatre Company show posters, and random newspaper clips that just strike my fancy. And Linda, of course. Covers, namely. Vogue, primarily, along with the U.S. flag we used to hang from the front of our house on the Fourth of July and Veterans Day, now doing the same across my sliding glass entrance, or exit, depending on how you wanna look at it, though now upside down. I hate bare walls. I don’t know what it is, but bare walls, the blankness drives me crazy. Always has, really. So I just kept going. My entire room is just one big collage now. Pretty embarrassed to say this, but I will, anyway, I guess. But first it was Ricky Schroder, Rob and Chad Lowe, all the boys in Bop Magazine and Super Teen. Which is fucking hilarious because it’s not like I ever really thought of them that way. I’m still not sure what it was. Or is.

I’ve kept as many remnants of Marty around as I can, though there isn’t much left. The photo of the three of us in the vestibule of St. Francis at her other daughter’s wedding. Books, mainly, of course. A lot of my books used to be my Mother’s. Weird to think of her reading some of them. I still have some of the books she used to read to me. My most important ones, at least. Richard Scarry’s Greatest Storybook Ever, The Little Engine That Could, The Giving Tree. Sandman Stories is my favorite. I don’t take it out all that often anymore, though, because I’m afraid the smell will wear off. I’ve added quite a few of my own, now, too. Mostly paperbacks I get for school, Catcher in the Rye and Shakespeare and all that, books I steal from Walden’s. They fill towering, makeshift bookcases fashioned of plywood shelves and brick. One of the shelves even a skateboard, flat with the wheels down, I can’t help but revel in my literary deathtrap, earthquake country and that. I’m kind of a chronic builder. Like. I’ll just be laying there or at my desk doing my homework or reading or something, and it’ll just sorta come to me. Some way of making it better. I expanded my stereo system for my last project, added two speakers. Just a couple of old ones someone had left in the alley around the corner. I’ve got double the sound now, I could give a shit where I got ’em from. Cause, goddamn, it sounds good. Harry hates it, of course. Not the building things part, the loud music part.

There’s a desk built in, too, in the middle. The perfect spot for my Brother AX-24 electric typewriter Harry got me for Christmas one year. It’s the only thoughtful gift he’s ever given to me. He usually gets me the most random, junky shit, I swear. It’s since been papered just as much as my bedroom has, though with stickers, not the covers of Vogue. Score on the fact that Harry doesn’t really seem to give a shit what I do, so long as my grades are good, a style of parenting which works to my advantage on numerous levels, truth be told.

I stumble out of my bed, turn the dial on the heater up, groaning clicks signal its start. My house is kind of a dump now, the dreams of my father and mother crushed by her metatastisizing everything, by the end. Just him and me these past eight years, the house fucking shows it. He let it and him and his heart and everything else go to shit, so enjoy our spacious living room, the wall of three beautiful windows, one picture, two smaller. They do throw the most beautiful afternoon light on the years old dog pee stains which litter our old, flat, dirty brown carpet, glossed over now with layers and layers of disinfecting spray foam, probably toxic. Wallpaper peels off the once lively dining room’s walls, termites feast now on the window trim in there. Or down the steps, out the back kitchen door to view the acre or so of our yellowed, shit littered, back yard, Marty’s roses long gone, below which rest the corpses of pets who, I suspect now, just gave up on living their lives because it was just too fucking depressing, having to live here.

There are cool things about this place, too, though. A big tree in front and a grip in the yard. I’m not sure what it is in front, but we’ve got orange, avocado, and plum trees in the back, the hardwood floor I know lurks throughout the whole thing, and the rough cut stone fireplace, 1950’s style or something, I don’t know for sure. But all the stones are different — different textures, different shades of earth, sealed together, rising to meet the dark, red wood of the mantle, the same kind of bricks on the outside, too. Or more like rocks, maybe? The wood on the den wall, paneled in perfect, ridged squares, gone this way and that, intersecting at the edges. Harry’s toolboxes, out in the garage. They’re old school. By how much I’m not sure, exactly, his and my grandfather’s names engraved on their respective silver plates, fastened to the front — made of heavy oak, maybe? I’m not sure, the wood of both finished cherry, beaten down a bit by residence in a series of machine shops, over decades. Slim, green velvet lined drawers, I’ve always been fascinated with them, a frequent offense of mine as a child was playing with Harry’s tools without permission. The magic I’d make if I had this house to myself. I tend to daydream about that a lot. I’ve got it all sketched out in my black book. I don’t know. Is it wrong to wish your parent ill will to make your house back into the home you wish it could be?

Meander from my bedroom down the hallway. He’s already gone, thank fuck. He gets up at some ungodly hour, like four or something, and is out of the house like clockwork by six. He used to own his own shop, now he works out at this place in Compton by the casino. He seems to like it all right. As long as he isn’t here. I fucking hate if he’s here when I get out of bed in the morning. It used to just be this thing he knows fucking annoys me, teenage boy sort of stuff. It’s so intense now, though. In a way it wasn’t before. Like. I’m really not overstating or being dramatic when I say just his presence, just the sight of him makes me want to punch him.

I’m so glad I’ll be at the Vaughn’s tonight. He should be asleep by the time I get home.

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