I fly from LaGuardia to Hartsfield. I take off from a gridded, densely populated Queens. I land in a sprawling suburban area of south Atlanta. Miles of roads between isolated subdivisions, some of them still unfinished from the real estate crash. I take MARTA, Atlanta’s subway that is mostly above ground. Out the window woods give way to buildings as we gain Atlanta proper. Most of them abandoned. All of them tagged with graffiti. I used to know some of the names. I hung out with graffiti kids when I was a young wannabe writer in Atlanta. Only one tag remains recognizable to me, “SEVER.” I wonder what he’s up to as I have no way of finding out.
Nobody takes MARTA. Not now, not when I used to live there, so the stations are meaningless. Not like in NY, where they become associated with your job, your favorite places, your neighborhood, and home. But the Civic Center stop… Every time I’m home, every time I ride MARTA in, the Civic Center stop is the only platform that holds meaning. That girl, the one who died, we were ushered into this station on our first real date. We went to Centennial Park during the 1996 Olympics (Christ, I knew her a long time!). We were thirty yards away from the bomb that injured many, and killed a teacher lady. We rode this train in silence to North Springs, where I ride this train now to be greeted and ferried the rest of the way home by my mother. There’s more to the story. It’s posted here.
Thirty minutes farther north in the car, my mom catches me up on everybody. Everything is the same. All that ever seems to happen is that more acres of woods get razed and replaced with more same things. The radio stations that used to be divided by genre all now play the same pop music from classic rock to now. In my hometown the courthouse is being replaced by a bigger courthouse. The jailhouse is being done away with for a bigger jail. I wonder if the current residents are looking forward to fresh new digs.
The first couple days I find real respite in my trip home. It’s dark at night. I can see up at all the stars, that vaporous shine I know to be the Milky Way. The food is bland, though comforting. After New York chic, the local garb is amusing. Everyone is in sweatshirts and loose fitting pants. In NY and across the country protests are forming about the non-indictment of Michael Brown’s killer. Here, it’s like the whole town is in its PJs, watching TV, and wondering how a place can get so out of control. Here, in a town notorious in the region for running out all its black people. I used to live here. I used to live here with her. We had a house together. That seems strange to me now. She died in this town. That seems unfair to her.
I wish for old haunts, but I have none. We always left these city limits for a good time. I’d like to get a buzz going, but I’m terrified of drinking in this town. You have to drive everywhere on long winding roads or highways, and where the state troopers ain’t, the city police are. God, it would suck to deal with a DUI here from Brooklyn. All my friends that stayed have kids that keep them shut up in their homes. We’re really just Facebook pages to each other at this point. After Thanksgiving I get antsy. I’ve watched up all the television I want, and seen all the movies that are out, because it’s the only thing to do after everyone goes to bed.
Eventually, I go to see the house she and I shared. I go to my old trailer park, which with all the unchanging is somehow a surprise to me that it is still the same. The only thing different is the old abandoned and beat the hell up car (beaten the hell up by us trailer park kids) that sat by the entrance for years is gone. I used to stand on its roof and do stand-up for the other barefoot and dirty faced children. I hated country music then. I was terrified of becoming white trash, or redneck.
Then I’m dropped off at the MARTA station, I ride the train to Hartsfield and I go home to Brooklyn. I love Brooklyn.
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