Memories of a neighborhood in St. Paul

Memories of a neighborhood in St. Paul


I remember riding bikes through the alleyways. I slipped and fell and skinned my knees and hands. Gogo and I snuck into the University Club. We went skinny-dipping in the pool. We found a diamond necklace at the bottom near the drain – I told her to keep it, to wear it, to show it off like we have money for diamonds like these.

She said, What if I see the woman who owns it? The woman who lost it? What if she sees me with it on? And what if she says it was me who stole it? What then?

I said, And? What then?

She laughed and put the diamonds around her neck. She still wears them, I think, but not on special occasions. With t-shirts and sneakers and jeans.


I know the small white house on the corner of Webster Street, and the lady who lives there who looks like my grandmother. She waves at me from the porch with a wrinkled brown palm when I pass on my bike. She once beckoned for me to come inside and offered me cookies still warm from the oven.

My memories are made of brick and cement and glass. My dreams are bathed in the sunlight of an autumn day at 4pm. The long shadows that creep over fences and pull at the sidewalk. My dreams are apples picked from trees and flat piano notes from songs I never learned how to play.


We disappear into snow. Into a swirling white mist that puts icicles like diamonds on eyelashes. The drifts rise to our knees. The days are short and dark. Cinnamon is the smell of the kitchen inside.

We lay in bed and dwell on words like freedom, queen, beauty, lost, motel, fire, kiss, love, youth, happy, long… long… nights from beneath blankets and sheets in the bedroom that once belonged to my sister.


Cold water – not warm yet like summer. I take my shirt off and hang it over the side of the fence. The girls are nearby splashing water and laughing, their long hair tied up and dreaming of Italy and France. Leaves starting to grow on trees. The smell of growing things and soil. People coming outside for the first time to watch the snow melt from rooftops and turn into water, disappear down the drain with the rest of us.

The old woman, rocking on the porch, telling me, When you die its not just your body that goes.

Telling me, As the days grow longer so do words likepast and future.

Gogo holding my hand and watching the end of the road lit with headlights from the cars that roll by slow, their tires spinning like records, like disco balls, like ceiling fans, like the pirouette of young ballerina dancers who never fall.

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Memories of a neighborhood in St. Paul