For Maricres who moved to Chico St. and stayed to hold the fort
Our street was named after a small sweet brown round fruit. It was seven houses long and innumerable friendships in depth. At both ends where the street bends, basketball rings stood and every square meter was a space to dance and sing and cherish childhood.
In the beginning, the lot across our house was empty. Until, one day, hills of gravel and sand began to sprout from the sidewalk and a dainty bungalow with a green roof that matched a green gate grew out of our makeshift jungle of banana trees and flowering weeds.
I was just beginning to discover the pain of knee wounds and elbow scrapes when you came to town.
It was also a time when I began to learn how important it was to create alliances with other human beings outside of one’s own home. You came at the perfect time.
You stood there in your fancy red dress with your quiet brother and your parents. I was looking outside the living room window while my mind tried to find different names to match with your face. Your name sounded like it deserved to be written in cursive and pink ink.
I called you by the last syllable of your name, enjoying how such a male nickname got redefined by such a pretty, dainty playmate. And how you owned that masculine strength with your graceful femininity so well. You biked like my brothers and danced like my sister. You held high scores in family computer games and crocheted the finest tabletop decor. You commanded an army in pretend street battles where, after the game was through, every ‘soldier’ of our street wanted to court you. You sang, and laughed, and played ball, and baked goodies, and took care of dogs, and comforted crying girls, and challenged older bullies, and created friendships that you intended to keep.
More than two decades pass and we are here. My family’s old house stands empty across your dainty bungalow with the colors of the gate and the roof now changed. There are more houses in the street and a lot more stranger faces. A new generation of rowdy children of the afternoon sun now run from one end of the street to the other, discovering their own alliances they can create outside of their parents’ homes. Their parents sit at the porch and watch their children with the allies they used to rule the streets with. You are among them and you still lead the pack.
I am not there anymore but I am with you. Because this alliance between us created outside of my family’s home has taught me that every friendship made and kept in whatever part of the world we choose creates a home we can go to. The bond remains strong even when memories begin to fade and the names of streets begin to change.