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Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Evangeline's House

When I was growing up there was a small red house two doors down with a real live white picket fence. It was inherited from her father - Evangeline used it as a summer house at first. She was the wildest thing I'd ever seen, in her 40's, she dated young long haired men exclusively. She drove a baby blue Cadillac - took us to the beach in it sometimes too. She'd let the young men drive and she'd wear this one piece bathing suit with fringe all over it - I thought it was super fancy. Then she came less and less - the house became host to a variety of misfits, looking for a place in this world I think. First it was the two guys in their 20's - the early disco boys that we spent the summer spying on, every night it was a different girl, a party. Next it was Phil - I was 11,12? He was working on the house in exchange for rent and every afternoon he would meet me out by the fence and talk to me about his future. His little girl my age moving out to the clean air. It didn't occur to me until much later on in life that the reason he spoke to me was because no one else would - it was the early 70's and racial equality hadn't hit Hampton Bays, they drove him out. I saw him the day he left, broken and discouraged. Next came Diane Henry and the loudest mom in town - single mother with three kids. My clearest memory of her is her standing by the fence bellowing Diane had better come home RIGHT NOW or she'd turn her every way but loose as soon as she got a hold of her. It probably shouldn't - but it still makes me laugh - that's one of the best threats I've ever heard. The last was Tommy, my life line, my light. He was about 20 or so, I was 14 - one of the kindest gentlest souls, what hippies were supposed to be, but rarely were. He was one of the first people that I reached out to - what a rare gift it is in life to find someone who is willing to listen, no matter what. He knew how much I needed to talk, to tell everything I was never allowed. If I walked by the front and down the side of the house he would meet me in the woods - and I would talk, that was it. And on those afternoons I told him everything, my life, my pain, the terrible things Uncle Joe had done, my fear I would never be anything or be allowed to be an adult. That man embodied the unconditional and I think he gave me hope that someday things would be alright. Maybe not great, but I would find my way - he often told me I was worth something - and sometimes I believed him. The last time I saw him he'd been beaten so badly he couldn't open his eyes. His jaw was swollen, I'm sure his ribs were shattered. A few good boys in town decided they would rather he leave, so when he was able to, he did. I asked him if I could go too, but he gently told me he could barely care for himself, the world was no place for me. I mourned him for a long time, I couldn't talk about him because I wasn't supposed to talk to him in the first place, but I'll always be grateful for his time and his ability to care for someone he didn't even know. After he left, that was it, the house became overgrown with weeds, there was the terrible summer that Evangeline had tried her hand at animal rescue and the ASPCA had to rescue the dogs from their rescuer. It now houses a real family, but for me it will always contain the ghosts of my past.

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