There’s a big shopping mall there, now. One of the sort that’s all outdoors, with manufactured ambling lanes and streetlights and cobblestone sidewalks. A corporate Hogsmeade, where the only magic comes from the purple and black polka dot rack at Charming Charlie. There used to be woods and wetlands there, of course. There used to be dirty mattresses and empty mason jars with drops of white lightning left in the bottom (gnats and sweat bees swimming lazily in the clear liquid, drunk off of the fumes and the sun). You and I liked to walk until the sun was behind us, and we’d split a pack of Marlboro reds split down the middle, both of us sweating and cursing in our blue jeans.
Once we found an old oil drum on which someone had spray-painted “SATIN”. Meaning “SATAN”, but mollifying the evil in the misspell. You and I went on and on about “Satan in Satin”: Mean Old Scratch himself posing for a Glamor Shot in black satin and lace (it shows off his bright red complexion), all pretty and fierce. Quite the opposite of terrifying.
The woods were nothing out of this world. Even the robins and wrens were dusty and grey from the soot from cars on the busy road that it bordered. But even so, even with the needles and the broken glass and the “Satin” worshipers, it was if nothing else a private copse of trees that children could run to. And trees, as we all know if we paid attention in school, make our air clean to breathe. They house our animals and our secrets. The new place calls itself “The Greene”. Maybe they added the “E” as full disclosure that yes, they bulldozed over pine and cottonwood and dusty robins and oily owls. They eradicated what was left of green.
Instead of running to the woods when they need to be alone, the kids in our old neighborhood will have to run along and buy something to soothe their growing, frantic little hearts. No cover of tree or sky or moss will lay its hand on their troubled and hot heads. I hope they run farther away, like you and I did. I hope they run as fast as their legs can carry them to streams and river birch and muddy pools that have grown green with algae.