Home is not a place. It is a person I used to be.” – Laraine Herring

Out of our driveway and down Appletree Court to Browning Branch Road. Then to Lickstone Rd to Allens Creek. Make a right and head to the stop light. Go straight as the street becomes Brown Ave. Pass the church and the pharmacy. Pass the police station. Pass David McKay’s house and soon you’ll see Waynesville Junior High. Here, Troy hit his head on the bleachers, and I thought he was going to die.

It was a Friday night. Football games are always on Friday nights, right? I was there with someone, Mary Ella maybe. We were sitting about two-thirds of the way up the stands. This may have been the same night that we thought Sonya was going to kill herself. It may also have been the night boys in a pick-up truck chased us to that police station. I can’t remember which football game is which, but I do remember we had a lot of worries on those Friday nights.

I looked down and saw Troy bleeding on the bleacher. Blood gushed from his head. People were gathered around; parents had come into the student section. I didn’t see Troy’s parents anywhere. The bleachers emptied after Troy was put in the ambulance. I expect the football game continued, but I can’t be sure.

What I do remember is that within minutes Troy was nearly dying, so the tear-streamed faces of 8th grade girls told me. I learned about the metal plate in his head that everyone KNEW was there. I wondered if I’d ever see him again – I already had mostly lost him when his parents started going to another church.

The next year the boy I had a crush on, Brandon, would get run over by a golf cart. He would nearly die; the parents said so. I sobbed for weeks as I imagined that cart crushing his skull, mashing his blonde hair into his skin, over and over again.. I saw him years later at the wedding of his best friend, the boy who ran over him. He looked the same. My soul finally stopped crying.

On Monday, Troy came back to school with stitches. I expected he would – somewhere beneath the mania and panic of hormones – because Mom said head wounds bleed a great deal, asked how he could have possibly gotten a metal plate in his head without me knowing, and assured me he was probably okay.

I never really did speak to him again.

*****

Your stories about yourself, whether about home, family or missed opportunities, are nestled in your bones. They inform your choices and they create your limitations. Each time you write your story, you move it. It becomes a little less solidified, a little more fluid. – Laraine Herring

For almost twenty-five years, I have walked around with the story of Troy in my head. It comes to me every time I see concrete bleachers or see someone bleeding from their head. For two days that fall, I thought a beautiful boy who I had known almost my whole life was going to no longer exist. I didn’t know how to live with death then.

Just writing this story – connecting the roads from my childhood home to the story, tying Brandon’s near-death to Troy’s minor injury – gives me the story as part of myself. And it gives me a childhood friend again; he’s not gone; he still lives for me in my stories. A teenage boy, fine, alive, and not bleeding.

What stories linger in your mind or appear like wisps at certain moments? What might you learn from telling them?

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More about my childhood home, Waynesville, NC
David McKay appears again in “Dreaming-Writing-Dreaming-Writing
I’m not sure I’ll end up in NC, but here’s why I love it so – “What I Dream for North Carolina”

Weatherby Football Stadium, Waynesville, NC