THE HOUSEby Levi Asher
July 20 1999
Long Island is actually pretty interesting to navigate, because the entire island is an oblong oval (with a fish tail at the east end) and all the main roads go either north-south or east-west, so it's like a matrix of intersecting parallel lines that can be traversed in any combination. Each night I'd either start by choosing an east/west route first, like the Southern State or Sunrise Highway or Merrick Highway or Hempstead Turnpike or the Northern State or the 495 or Jericho Turnpike or 25A or Vanderbilt Motor Parkway, or else I'd randomly start with a north/south road, like 106 or 107 or 109 or the Seaford-Oyster Bay Expressway or South Oyster Bay Road or Sagtikos/Sunken Meadow or Route 110 or Deer Park Avenue. I guess this doesn't sound like the most thrilling pastime in the world, but it was a way to keep my life different from day to day. It kept me sane for a while.
As I drove around, I looked for things. One day my aimless travels led me into the town of Plainview, which I remembered because I'd lived there for a short time in the summer of 1970. My parents had just divorced then (I was eight years old at the time) and my mother hadn't found a new permanent home for us yet. She rented a furnished house from a family who went to Florida every summer. It was in Plainview, and it was really weird living in somebody else's bedroom, watching TV on someone else's set, eating from somebody else's kitchen.
It was a weird summer. I remember watching men land on the moon on this strange TV in this unsettling house. My bedroom was a girl's bedroom, and the girl was a Beatles freak. The walls were littered with photos of the fab four. Actually I think the Beatles were breaking up just about this time -- so I guess this girl was having a pretty bad summer too, wherever in Florida she was.
Anyway, now I was an adult driving through town, and I wondered: where was the house we'd lived in? I knew the address: 8 Eldorado Blvd, but we hadn't lived there long enough for me to remember the names of any cross streets or main roads. I could only remember one thing: I used to ride my bike two blocks north to the corner of a large street where there were two stores, a Drug King and a Dairy Queen, on opposite diagonal corners. I used to buy Matchbox cars at the Drug King.
And my father would pick us up every weekend for his time with us, and a lot of times on the way back we'd all stop at the Dairy Queen for some ice cream before he dropped us off. There was a vacant lot across the street from the Dairy Queen and next to the Drug King, and I used to wander among the weeds there, looking for frogs or bottlecaps.
I couldn't find anything familiar, but I did find a Taco Bell, so I decided to have a couple of burritos. As I sat there eating, I watched the cars go by through the window, and then I gradually focused past the cars onto the other side of the street, and as I peered blearily, as if through a rainy window, I suddenly realized that I was staring at a Dairy Queen.
And I shot a quick glance to my right and saw a nondescript little drugstore called Drug King.
And I realized that the Taco Bell I was sitting must have been built over the vacant lot where I used to wander.
Feeling dizzily in the midst of an incredible revelation, I tried to calculate where Eldorado Blvd would be in relation to these stores. But I was confused, because I knew I'd always come out of the development on the Drug King side of the street, but that side faced south, and that meant our house faced north, whereas I'd always had a subconscious sense that it had faced south. Not that I'd ever thought about this specifically, this was just how I had it settled in my mind in relation to the rest of the universe. I'd had it flipped in my mind, like a photograph in a mirror.
After I finished eating I drove into the development and found, exactly two blocks down like I knew it would be, the corner of Eldorado Blvd. I found # 8 and it looked pretty much like I remembered it.
But there was no catharsis. Nothing. I sat there with my car humming, listening to the song on the radio, feeling like I should be crying or laughing or something, but there was nothing -- the house was there, it looked the same, and here's the street where I rode my bike, and nothing else in the world was any different and I hadn't learned a damn thing except that I'd always had the house upside down in my head, and nothing better than that.
I sat staring at it for about a minute and then I drove home, sad, angry, embarrassed and still totally lost.