Steel Town Love

“I think once you love somebody, you love somebody; that’s just how it is.”

Richard Ford

It’s our house being sold for a dollar. Of course I’d come back.

The house? Busted out windows, charred black walls, and rusted hinged hanging front door. There used to be a neighborhood here. Those pencil scratches in the door frame to the kitchen marking how fast our kids got tall. Open sky above where our kitchen table used to be. We were a family that ate dinner together. In the orange and grey haze of the steel toned skies of the mills here at the tip of Lake Michigan. Of course there was a smell that spun off the mills. Bothered some people. But I never paid a smell any mind. I mean it ain’t like you are losing someone you love. Or even taking care of one sick kid. It’s just a smell.

The mills let our kids be like all the other kids. Oh, she and I, we thought they were geniuses. Loved them both, Annie Beth and Eric, with the very strength of steel. What our kids wanted most was to be like all the other kids. And on our quiet little street in Gary Indiana. In the shadows of the mill flame, they were like other kids.
The mill let us do that for them. There was home. The neighborhood. And then there was the mill.

Then the mill, really all the mills, shut down. People started moving out of the neighborhood. Even that crazy Jackson family. Went to Hollywood or something, I don’t know.

Then the autumn winds went cold. Every sunset went to black alone. The streets of our neighborhood, echoing the crumbling concrete dust of memories, our family scattered. She was gone.

Without my days in the mill, I went silent. Don’t really even know just where I spent my time. Only knew that when October came she was gone. The kids were just phone calls. She was gone.

And my heart just stopped. Like the fire in the mills gone cold. My heart just stopped.

Till the news that houses in Gary were now being sold for a dollar, drifted out here, where I now drift too, and slapped me cold.

As if some sort of circle, other peoples chances, other people’s times, were starting up again. Like some tiny steel blue flame. The rhythm of oh, I don’t know, those Jackson kids singing. That bass guitar anchoring. Some new sunrise.

As if there were another chance.

4 Responses to “Steel Town Love”

  1. Jeff L. Howe Says:

    Gary, Flint, Trenton… it’s sad what happens to old towns whose reason for being has moved away. But it’s really just a response to needs and resources… new towns spring up elsewhere. Evocative piece. (Shouldn’t it be “losing”?)

    • chicagoguy12 Says:

      Thanks Jeff! (Appreciate the word catch)

      One of the things that prompted this is learning that they really are selling houses in Gary for $1. So sometimes the new towns can spring up in the same place too.

  2. toritto Says:

    Roger – nicely done. Sometimes the old towns can come back – sometimes not. There is a Home Depot parking lot over the little “bungalow” of my youth, where poppa came home from a day of pushing a wheel barrow, mom made dinner and they sat down with their three sons. The dreams are covered with black tar.


  3. chicagoguy12 Says:

    “Dreams covered with black tar”—that says it well Frank.

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