I’d been around the block more times than I can count, before I realized I hadn’t thought about home in a while. You can’t miss it. The red front door. Everyone in the building voted for red. A beacon in a sea of dark blue, green and grey buildings. Back then, going out that red door meant adventure. It didn’t matter that I was only going around the block. I was a kid, ready to circumnavigate the world.
There’s Jay. Jay’s got the best job. His building has five floors of parking spaces. People are dropping off their cars, and picking them up all day long. He’s got a whole collection of keys on a wall of pegs in his office. You can see it through the window, but no one’s allowed in. Jay’s the only one who gets to drive in the building. He figures out how all the cars are gonna fit. It’s a multi-level puzzle. When I pass the Park Here sign, I count. I’m following the rules. Walk around the block plus don’t cross any streets equals you won’t get lost. One time round the block, two times round, three times. Jay doesn’t even notice me. Maybe he’s driving our car to another floor to make room for someone else. Maybe he’s holding his breath, cause our car’s so smelly on account of mom’s perfume getting all over the place.
On my fourth time round, Jay comes out to the sidewalk. He says, keep your laces tied, kid. I answer by pointing to the Velcro strapping my shoes shut. Then he snorts. He probably thinks it’s my first time passing the garage today. But he’s skipping a lot of steps, cause he didn’t see me. He doesn’t know that I went round the block three times already.
There’s two categories of things on the block. Things That Are Always Here, and Things That Change. I’m in the Always Here category, with the trash cans, streetlights, crosswalks, trees and a postbox. When the trash cans are full, I hold my breath and run past the stinks. It’s day time, so the streetlights aren’t shining, but the crosswalks sparkle from all the crushed-up glass in the white paint. Trees make a layer between my walking on the sidewalk and cars driving on the street. The oldest trees are taller than the streetlights. and their trunks are squeezed by too small holes in the tree grates. The young ones have more space, but when they grow-up, they’ll get squeezed too. One tree is chopped down. It’s got rings like the ones from planets going around the sun. The blue post box makes a scary creaking sound when I open the hatch. Even though I want to travel, I wouldn’t want to be a letter.
The Things That Change category is grown-ups crossing the street and going to work, cars honking to go faster, and trucks delivering stuff. It’s everything that touches the block but isn’t attached. When the sun shines through windows making orange shapes in our apartment and rain drops making puddles, the light and the water keep going. Like letters, that get pulled out of the mailbox and delivered to the other side of the world.
There’s the balloon-man. He’s on the corner with the postbox. When I first see him, the sky is bright blue, but right when I’m passing his cart, it’s suddenly dark and big puffs of wind. He’s yelling and grabbing the strings. Thunder is cracking and scaring the balloons so far into the sky they turn into dots and disappear. That’s when it starts pouring rain right on my eyeballs, cause I’m still looking up to see where the balloons went.
The next corner’s clogged with umbrellas. The red light and yellow light and the green light are on at the same time. No one knows what the rules are. Everyone wants to be first. Zig-zagging umbrellas, jammed up cars and mad trucks. Honking horns go right through my body. It’s so crowded, I have to duck. Someone trips over me and curses. I start running so fast I turn into a streaky blur. I almost run past my red door.
When you take a picture of something in motion, the moving thing looks like a blur, almost invisible. Not a standing-still blur which just looks like fuzz, a blur with streaks, colorful streaks that match your clothes and your body going in a direction, so you can tell something is moving but you might not know what or who it is.
At that point, which isn’t really a point, because a point is a spot where you stand still and you know where you are, like looking at a YOU ARE HERE sign. At that point I start to break away. The next time I go out the door I’m crossing streets. I see a million trash cans, street lamps, trees and postboxes. It stops raining, starts raining, stops and starts and even though I’m still a blur and sometimes soaking wet, when I get back, I know Jay sees me, cause he says, what’s up stranger?
As I crossed into the Things That Change category, I lost count of how many times I’d been around the block. I exchanged one island for another, a block for a world. I realized I haven’t seen Jay or the red door in a long time. Where I am now is a messy, streaky, fuzzy bunch of points connecting up to make a fast line. The beginning of rain prods a sweet tar smell from the street. I wait for the traffic signal to turn green. Feel for my keys. Wonder where I parked my car.
Kirsten Mosher is a visual artist and writer. Her project Soul Mate 180° for which she received the 2016 LACMA Art + Technology Award was exhibited at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in 2020. Her series Automotive Stories occasionally show up in the Automotive sections of local newspapers. @KirstenMosher | KirstenMosher.com
Image supplied by the author