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29 Highway

There is an old run-down building right off 29 highway in downtown East Point.

It used to be government housing. I’m not sure when it was abandoned, but despite being in the middle of town, it’s been there for years, vacant, shattered, ugly, and old. I ride by it every now and then. Drive around back and look up at the broken windows.

When I was 18 I met my birth mother there for the first time. Which is funny in hindsight. Me and Josh used to skateboard at the Marta Station right down the street in the years prior.

So very close.

6 months later I also met my biological father there for the first time.

I do not really know what to say about those experiences aside from that they were unpleasant. Not that they were. Well at least not her. She was an angel. Sad and apologetic, hopeful. He was a different story.

I have not seen my father again since that day. That one day in 2000 was the only time. He was drinking a natural light. I have a picture of him drinking it somewhere. Maybe. I think it’s been lost in the many moves I’ve made over the years. If he is still alive, he is probably in prison.

I took my mother a stuffed animal, I believe for Christmas, that year. After assuring her I held no ill will and thanking her for giving me a better life by giving me up for adoption, I left and never went back.

I don’t know why I periodically visit that building but not her. But I do. I know how to reach her. People tell me that its fine. That its an understandable decision.

I don’t believe them, but neither do I do it.

The other day when I drove past the building, I kept going, pushing down through the edge of College Park and Union City into Fairburn where I was raised.

I rarely go to Fairburn, but an elementary school friend posted a second-grade class picture the other day and it made me want to drive past the school. As always, I jump at the chance to ride the motorcycle somewhere. Over the past year it has been healthy obsession. It incites a type of post orgasmic oxytocin brain bath calm. A diversion that tames my tendency to want to drink more than I should. A characteristic I am told I inherited from my father.

I rode down 29 past the old Dairy Queen where we would get ice cream at after Sunday night church service. The fast-drying chocolate shell hardened over soft serve. Past the old A and P, which is no longer an A and P, and past the old package store, which is still a package store.

I stopped at Mr. Video, where I used to rent video games on the weekends. Where when Cory Cunningham didn’t want to rent Ninja Turtles like I did, he told his mother that their eastern beliefs weren’t Christian and so we shouldn’t rent that game. Mr. Video is a jewelry store now.

I went by the old drug store where my mom bought me my first comic book. Iron Man. I learned to draw by looking at the pictures and when I got good she put me in a Saturday school drawing class at GA State. I have spent many years at Georgia State.

I went by the old library where I used to check out the same Indiana Jones and Star Wars movies every time I was sick. By the grassy hill me and my first girlfriend rolled down together years later.

Both the library and the drug store are both closed now.

I drove back toward the school, down the increasingly rural roads. Only they were not as rural as they used to be, now littered with new gas stations, strip malls, and subdivisions.

One of the most difficult aspects of the trip was seeing the old McGee farm. Me and Clint went to elementary school together. He was in the picture my friend posted. His family had a lot of land there off of 92. To the side of his house was a huge pasture with cows and a large tree that set at the top of the hill's crest. That tree on that hill served as the foundation of much of what I think is beautiful. It was archetypal in a way, and still works in the background of my mind, under-girding my aesthetic preferences – the way I compose photographs.

I loved that pasture. I remember running in the cool air, dodging cow patties all the way down to the creek as a child. How the barn felt. How Clint’s jacket smelled. How I loved his sweet mother.

The farm is no longer there anymore. The field is gone, completely grown over. A rough dirt pathway remained where the driveway used to be. Wanting to see that tree I loved so much I managed to get down most of the way. I couldn’t find the house in the midst of the overgrowth. Instead of the old tree, I managed to discover what appeared to be a cellphone tower.

I went by the church I grew up in. Where my father was the music pastor for the first third of my life. We spent as much time in that small white country Baptist church as we did at home. Lemonade and cookies at vacation Bible school. White pants on Easter Sunday. The kudzu covered trees across from the pastor’s house were still there, but much small than I remember.

I looked for grandmother in the graveyard but did not see her. I saw other familiar names. Rainwater. McClure. Northcutt. I think we buried her somewhere else in hindsight. Im confusing funerals in my mind perhaps. I never liked graveyards. Not that they creep me out. I was just a bit too sentimental as a kid, and Andrew’s passing did help. Now I just think they are stupid. I do not want to be buried in a graveyard. Confined like that. I would rather my body become part of the earth again. Alive again.

My elementary school is near my old house down Cedar Grove road. I took the long way to re-experience the roads.

The mind is a funny thing. It underlays old pictures of the landscape under the new additions or subtractions in nature and architecture. Despite the differences I could see things the way they once were, bringing up memory after memory of things I wouldn’t, and possibly couldn’t recall on a daily basis. Images, sounds, smells, forever engraved into the brain when it was young and plastic. As I re-encountered the physical locations my younger self re-taught me about the events I was present for decades ago as a child. How they still inform the way I think about experience, meaning, relationships. Kisses, fights, hopes, disappointments. Two seemingly distinct aspects of my person-hood connected in a myriad of ways I cannot understand. Talking to one another across time, but in one physical place.

I passed by my Dad's best friend's house. I remember picking pears in the back yard. How my shoes dyed my feet blue in the wet summer grass. I remember sleeping in the back seat of the car early in the morning the night he passed.

One driveway looked familiar. As I got closer I remembered it was my brother’s friend, Chris Teal’s house. 30 years ago at least. I remembered how nice he was to me. The scar on his face my mother told me it was impolite to ask about. I asked about it. He said he fell on some glass when he was a kid.

I wonder if that was true.

I found the school. It closed when I was going into 4th grade. The trees in the back where the playground used to be were at least that old, having grown much taller than me in the same three passing decades.

I found a path around the side that led down to the back, but it was a dead end. Someone dumps trash back there now.

I didn’t go inside like I planned.

After leaving I cut back up Bethlehem road to see the old shack where my friend Amanda and her family used to live. It too was covered in vines. Almost unrecognizable. I wonder what she is doing now. I haven’t seen her since 2001 when I randomly ran into her at the Huddle House in Barnesville where she was working at the time.

Back to the edge of Union City and hang a left and back up 29 to the city.

As I again pass the dilapidated building in East Point, I wonder what my birth mother is doing.

She's never met Autumn. She doesn’t know about her.

I feel bad about that.

The city seems so overgrown.

I think its time to leave here. Again.

I want Autumn to grow in other places.

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