Unfinished Business, Part III

Continued from Tuesday, September 28 post.

So today is the last day of September, and some glaring items remain on my newsprint To Do lists.

  • Shelf for bathroom cabinet
  • Homework charts for kids
  • Taxes
  • Report
  • Fire inventory

The inventory is incomplete. Without going into too much detail, let me say that there has been a request for a more thorough accounting of the location and age of some items I lost in the fire, including a request for receipts and photographs, where possible.

Desk in Corner, Henry Rael

Receipts. Photographs. Documentation. Ah, yes, I keep all of that in the top drawer of my desk, which sits in front of a picture window in the southwest corner of my living room, overlooking 15th street and the Huning Castle Apartments. Let me just reach into the drawer—oh, wait a minute. Silly me. The picture window, the southwest corner of my living room, my desk and its contents—including receipts and photographs—were destroyed in a fire.


Castle Demolition, Henry Rael

The building is gone. The day demolition started, I was driving back to Atrisco from the Albuquerque Convention Center, where Henry had just spoken on a panel at the National LULAC Convention. I knew the wrecking ball was scheduled for early to mid July, but I knew “not the day nor the hour” (Matthew 25:13, American Standard Version). As I passed the stoplight at 14th & Central, anticipating the chain link fence around the property and the ghostly façade of a once-elegant building, I saw dust rising like smoke, an earth mover parked in my former living room, scraping the innards from the place that was once my home. A man in an orange vest dampened the dust with a steady stream of water from a fire hose.

I parked on 15th, got out of my car and walked up to the fence, resting my forehead against the chain link.

I wasn’t there when the building burned down. I was in Oaxaca. As my across-the-hall neighbor was leaving a message on my cell phone (“Hi, Michelle? Um—I was just calling to let you know that our apartments are on fire”), I was having dinner at La Zandunga with Ita and Luz María. As Henry was putting out an APB on my Facebook page (which I did not check until the next afternoon), I was at poetry night at La Nueva Babel.

Palomazo de Poesía, La Nueva Babel, 2005

Saying goodbye is important. I wasn’t there the night of the fire; so the morning the demolition started, I closed my eyes, looped my fingers through the chain link, and listened to a machine claw its way through the Castle Apartment ruins. Dust drifted through the fence. A bus stopped at its regular pickup on the corner of 15th and Central.

Last Visit to Castle, Henry Rael

And then the machine stopped, the engine idled, and a voice called out, “Are you okay?” It was talking to me. The crane operator on the other side of the fence, still perched high where my kitchen used to be, was looking at me.

“Yeah,” I said, wiping my eyes. “I used to live here.”

“I’m sorry,” he said, his gaze steady and kind, his work waiting, but not insistent.

“It’s okay,” I said. “Thank you.”

He nodded. I nodded.

Then I stepped back from the fence. He started the engine again and continued his work. I got back in my car and came home.

Some business can’t be marked off a list. Some business works its way through the soul over time, and it is only when the body says, “It’s okay,” and “Thank you,” that we realize we have let it go.

Published in: on September 30, 2010 at 12:10 pm  Comments (1)  

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One CommentLeave a comment

  1. Thank you for sharing, Michelle. Very poignant and true.

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