THE END OF THE SENTENCE
When I first moved onto this street – Plato Street – so very many years ago now, I had no illusions of it being anything other than what it appeared to be: a run down street in a run down part of town whose inhabitants chose because they could afford nothing better. Nothing better. That was what we all believed as we sat in our own raggedy run-down houses sitting on our own weedy, wilting, waste-filled yards perched on the crumbling street that historical rumor and historical rumor alone had said was once something worthwhile. We had taken our assignment, some full of rebellion, others with acquiescence, and lived it because, whether we admitted it or not, we believed it was ours to accept. We lived our days full of an image of our neighborhood and ourselves that said we could not do better. We could not be better. We branded that image into our brains with a thousand little acts and a million little thoughts. No one did it for us. We did it ourselves.
Then Sally moved in. She didn’t accept that image. She didn’t even seem acquainted with it, and when any of us would attempt – even remotely – to show it to her, she seemed puzzled. Maybe it was an act. Maybe she saw it, the picture of our neighborhood, as clearly as everyone else did and simply ignored it. We’ll never know because we never really got to know Sally. The little that we did learn of her, though, was like a blast of Arctic air on a sweltering day. She treated us like the people we could be, not like the people we had become. She jolted us from our hazy lethargy and sent shivers down our collective spine.
Plato Street: simply the pitiful result of a vain thought that the property could never be improved. We thought that image was as immovable as the street, itself. That image hung over us as faithfully as the sun rose every morning; a permanent presence we’d grown to accept as completely as corn stalks in the summer or dead leaves in the fall. How strange, how funny, how amazing it is that we lived with that image believing it to be as real as the stars in the sky. It wasn’t.