By Tim Clark
My family moved often when I was young.
Jobs, transfers, I am not really sure of the reason. My memories are boxes lined up and down hallways, or maybe in moving vans. The smell of my Mother’s cinnamon rolls competing with exhaust fumes. There are deep recollections about a certain exciting apprehension of dreaded adventure; about a new place, a new city, a new home.
It was a long time ago, and since I was very young everything has a sensuous, plastic mix. Nothing is concrete; shapes are amorphous, soft, undefined. People, except for immediate family, are fuzzy and nondescript.
You don’t always have time to make friends when you move a lot, and sometimes the potential pain of possible loss is more than enough to make you wary.
But there are things, places that have imprinted themselves.
Places that won’t go away. Places can haunt you the same as people. There are places from my past that weave in and out of focus…one minute it is clear, and then it fades.
Lonely places, crowded places, places that mean nothing…but maybe they used to mean everything.
Sometimes they pop up in dreams, or as a barely discernible thought. Something on the internet or in a magazine will trigger a place. Where?…Why?
Why do they follow me around? Keep showing up? There is nothing connected to most of them. Nothing at all. But there they are; in the dark, in the back, worming their way to the front.
Places have magic, places have power. A magnetic attraction. Pulling you inexorably to the past…but what past?
Sometimes I even know the town we were living in at the time. Names like Roswell, Pocatello, Scottsbluff…but after that it gets blurry, indistinct. Where in the town was this building, this alley, this bridge?
Are any of the visions still there? Were they ever really there? A lot has happened, a lot has changed. If I could go back to visit would anything look at all like the things that pop up so often in my head?
My wife likes to visit new places, we travel. See new things. She has, through her own dedication to life and exploration, made me realize there is a place for new places.
I wasn’t really sure.
We go to new places all the time; will they end up haunting me? One place we have been to, twice, was the unfortunate victim of a terrible wildfire. Burned, gone, erased from its place, but not from my places.
I work in a very old building, in an ancient part of town. Sometimes the building will sigh, and you can almost hear it say “Oh Brother, I can tell you; I have seen some things.” And you know it has.
It has seen a lot of things.
It sat, derelict, empty, except for some homeless people, wildlife and memories. The memories are still there. We don’t talk about those, though; they are just out of sight, you can feel them.
When I first read Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad, the line “and this also has been one of the dark places…” almost kept me from finishing the story.
I tried, but the “dark place” kept insinuating itself into my thoughts. Not so much because I felt my memories were of dark places, but the notion places had the ability to be dark. Still, to this day, those words have more meaning for me than he probably intended.
What of the places that come to my mind without being called, without explanation?
Certainly they had at one point been a place of darkness. But it was long before I got there; by then they were just places, with a story to tell. Maybe a lot of stories, or maybe just one long story.
Maybe, as a shy, awkward kid, it was easier to meet places. Maybe they were easier to understand. Maybe they still are.
Memories are pressed, flowers in a book; small capsules of my journey through life. Maybe it means something. I don’t know, maybe nobody knows.
Maybe no place knows; but, maybe they do.
My name is Tim Clark, I am a blogger, a warehouse associate, a happily married man (for 28 years) and a father, from Columbus, Ohio.
I am an occasional and proud contributor to Street Speech, a local homeless advocacy newspaper, and am thrilled to be allowed to write a monthly column for The Wild Word. There are a few others, that can be viewed on my Contently page, here.