Commonplace

seeking the story in the ordinary

It was a dingy corner of a gym at a local community center during a simple 6th birthday party. I was chasing down the two-year-old, an interloper on the kindergartner’s birthday circuit, amidst hardened gum stains and up and down rubber-lined steps set against linoleum flooring.

The building was dated—40s? 60s?—and I drank in that musty smell peculiar to old gymnasiums and the backs of stages, a blend of sawdust and teenage sweat.

Backstage. Where we traded secrets between scenes, crushed hard on the band, grew up behind bleachers. Among discarded cracked-wood benches, their chipped paint a faded orange or blue, holding history in a layer of dust, stray nails, and Sharpie stains boasting who “wuz there.” Peering out from behind thick burgundy curtains, I alternately wondered if he liked me and what was for dinner.

Or turn right off the lone hallway in an abandoned public school in Hicksville, New York. During a free period, we’d trespass in the cluttered dark behind the faded gold drape of the auditorium’s main stage, pressed up against donated furniture and music stands that dug into my back.

A hollow farmhouse in an empty field, explored at dusk,

A swath of sand in the shade of a splintering boardwalk, seashells piercing skin,

A muddy campground on the banks of the Delaware River, sleeping bags to soil, a single bathroom—pink?—where we’d forego showers,

An apple core, consumed whole, along the Appalachian,

Ants crushed under dirt-filled fingernails and eyes blackened from ball with the boys,

Nights spent in cars or sleazy roadside motels,

Or on a repurposed mattress flung unceremoniously onto the floor of a handsome bassist’s bedroom.

Memories line up into a life. One lived dusty-kneed, in the dirt, on the ground, steeped in artifact and earth.

Bells and whistles be damned.

Life shines brighter against a lackluster backdrop.

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16 thoughts on “lackluster

  1. Dana says:

    Dina, this is stunning. Your evocative words brought me right back to those bleachers and that gym, and then took me by the hand into your past, those final lines, so haunting yet bright. Thank you for starting my day with this, as I hide upstairs away from the lunch making breakfast catering life below.

    1. Thank you so much, Dana! I love the image of you hiding away to read these words while the day’s demands await you downstairs…

  2. This is spectacular. I love how you seamlessly blend your past with your present–allowing you to be in the moment while remembering in such vivid detail.
    I adore the last two lines.

    1. Thank you, Sarah! I love how you put that–my mind does tend to wander back even as I try to keep up with my now. Your kind words always go straight to my heart. xo

  3. kploetz says:

    What provocative, evocative prose you pave along memory lane. Love it.

    1. Thank you so much, Kristen! xox

  4. Oh my gosh those last two lines! I just love it. You paint such vivid pictures with words… it started to bring up flashes of my own memories- the dirty, smelly, seedy ones are some of the best! 🙂

    1. Right?? They absolutely are. I love reliving them now with my boys. Thank you *so* much for reading & commenting, Timna! Love it.

  5. Nina Badzin says:

    I love the way you slip into vivid memory here.

    1. Thanks so much, Nina.

  6. rudrip says:

    I love how a memory can take on a different life. Your evocative prose and details are nostalgic and lovely, Dina.

    1. Thanks so much for these kind words, Rudri. Always mean a great deal…I love “nostalgic and lovely.” xo

  7. Lara says:

    “Memories line up into a life.” Oh, yes, don’t they though. Such provocative imagery here. Loved drinking in every word of this. xo

  8. Thanks so much, darling. xox

  9. The last two lines are breathtaking. What a beautiful article.

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