Going Home

At the downtown Belfast hotel I checked the Bangor phone directory. One of the women who raised me was back living in the tiny terrace house where she was born. The second woman’s husband was listed at the address near the railway station where I lived till I left home when I was 17. The next day, a Sunday, I took the train to Bangor, 13 miles away.
Growing up I was obsessed with widescreens. First the slightly wider screen that mutilated standard formatted movies by cutting off the tops and bottoms for the sake of size, later the much wider CinemaScope screen for which movies were specially filmed. My only doodle for the first 30 years of my life was the oblong CinemaScope screen, with the top and bottom edges curved inwards to suggest a vast object with the center receding into the distance. Idiotic psychotheorists might assume that repeated image was a phallic object; I think I never had the patience to learn to draw any other simple object. I was obsessed with widescreens because I longed for space, physical and emotional.
Along with the CinemaScope screen came the CinemaScope music extension that accompanied the 20th Century Fox logo, an expansive trumpet voluntary. A culture vulture in my late teens and into my twenties, my head was devoted to the films of Ingmar Bergman, but my heart was with the mediocre versions of popular bestsellers that the Fox movie factory churned out with diminishing success. I mean Peyton Place. So I always imagined that after fifty years, the first time I came out of the Bangor railway station and stood at the top of the steps that led down the street where I grew up would be a Peyton Place moment, the CinemaScope trumpets blasting to remind me to feel heightened emotions.
Nothing. The railway station and area around it were under construction and I had to walk around where the steps had been to get to my street. To the right, signs of urban decay on Main Street, but also human beings, never there on the deserted religious Sundays of my childhood. More shops at the top of my street than there used to be including, God help me, a Chinese food place. I don’t think there was a Chinese food place in the whole of Northern Ireland when I was growing up.
I crossed over into the dip to get a better view of the house where I grew up, still there on the other side of the street slightly up the hill. No signs of life in the house, but I felt like a loitering criminal, scared someone would come out and recognize me. Everything quiet.

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