I live and work in a crumbling neighborhood. I've written about it countless times (at least a few on this blog in poem form or essay, and dozens of other writings in my journal entries). It kind of ticks me off to find myself writing about it, yet again. Place is a topic that haunts me. Not in a capital P Poetry Workshop sort of way, either. I'm not happily haunted by Edwardsville. I'm living in it.
I have a duplicitous relationship with this town. We have a bookstore here. People praise us. "It's so nice what you're doing here." Ok, great. What are we doing here? No one comes in to buy books. Those who read and want to own a book in this area either shop online, or at Barnes and Noble. People say, "The energy in here is so great," or "This is such a special place." The free book box gets stolen, and we put out a fresh one, but start taking it inside after we close up shop for the evening. We're willing to give books away in the daytime, but not at night? Night isn't trustworthy? I put a five dollar bill into Salvation Army bucket, but won't give a cent to the man who comes into the store asking for money. This town screams need, but I'm only willing to give what I want to give and on my own terms. What does that say about me as a person?
Today I took a walk thinking about my tangly feelings for this area. We want to move and we also have fierce pride in owning the bookstore here in the middle of a place where no one seems to care about words. Maybe we feel safer that way. Maybe it's time to move. Why have fierce pride over anything, really? It's probably unhealthy. There's something too precious about it all.
I walked into the laundromat I've never been inside. I've only ever seen it from the outside. I complain all the time about people just walking past our bookstore, and I've never been in my town laundromat. The tiles on the floor are lifting up and crunch underfoot, the air is humid with the lint of the dryers. The machines are "Compu-Dry II" models. I'm sure they shrink your clothes in binary code. No one was in there with me, but someone was earlier. They left a plaid blanket in one of the baskets. There are twenty vents on the side of the building, all pointing down at the ground.
In one of the houses on a one-way street behind our store, a parrot stares out the window. The owner of the double-wide keeps a collection of rain decayed religious statues in the little space of land between the front porch and the sidewalk. Jesus has no hands. St. Francis is riddled with pockmarks. A plastic sign is jammed into the dirt, "Please curb your dog."
There's a beautiful yellow labrador that rests at the front door of Empire Arcade and Amusements. He watches the traffic of Main Street.
The parrot, the dog, the bookstore owners.