From high up, fifteen thousand feet above, where the aerial photographs are taken, 4121 Wilson Avenue, the address I know best, is a minuscule point, a scab of green. In satellite images shot from higher still, my former street dissolves into the toe of Louisiana’s boot. From this vantage point, our address, now mite size, would appear to sit in the Gulf of Mexico. Distance lends perspective, but it can also shade, misinterpret. From these great heights, my brother Carl would not be seen.
Carl, who is also my brother Rabbit, sits his days and nights away at 4121 Wilson Avenue at least five times a week after working his maintenance job at NASA or when he is not fishing or near to the water where he loves to be. Four thousand fifteen days past the Water, beyond all news cycles known to man, still sits a skinny man in shorts, white socks pulled up to his kneecaps, one gold picture frame around his front tooth.
Sometimes you can find Carl alone on our lot, poised on an ice chest, searching the view, as if for a sign, as if for a wonder. Or else, seated at a pecan-colored dining table with intricately carved legs, holding court. The table where Carl sometimes sits is on the spot where our living room used to be but where instead of floor there is green grass trying to grow.
See Carl gesturing with a long arm, if he feels like it, wearing dark shades even if it is night. See Rabbit with his legs crossed at the ankle, a long-legged man, knotted up.
I can see him there now, in my mind’s eye, silent and holding a beer. Babysitting ruins. But that is not his language or sentiment; he would never betray the Yellow House like that.
Carl often finds company on Wilson Avenue where he keeps watch. Friends will arrive and pop their trunks, revealing coolers containing spirits on ice. “Help yourself, baby,” they will say. If someone has to pee, they do it in what used to be our den. Or they use the bright-blue porta potty sitting at the back of the yard, where the shed once was. Now, this plastic, vertical bathroom is the only structure on the lot. Written on its front in white block letters on black background: CITY OF NEW ORLEANS.
From “The Yellow House” by Sarah M. Broom. Copyright ©2019. Reprinted with permission of Grove Press.