I studied the map, getting my bearings. Belle View was less than five years old, built with the early optimism that would make Atlanta developers infamous. Anyone with a foot of land had known the city was due for an influx of new blood and had built accordingly. At this one complex, which dwarfs Arborgate but is nothing to the swinging singles places along the Chattahoochee River were twenty buildings, each holding some dozen apartments, most of them two- and three-bedroom units built for the thousands of young people heading to Atlanta. I had no idea, when I left New York, that I was part of such a migration. I probably should have known. My parents had been part of a similar exodus to Florida and were living on a new street where all the neighbors decorated their mailboxes with license plates from their home states. They were all northern: Michigan, New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Their baby boomer children, now in our twenties, are moving to Atlanta, Denver and Seattle.
Belle View’s buildings were faced in white painted brick and deep balconies of the sort that would get very little light and no cross breezes. The rooms behind them would get little natural light and be dependent on individual heating and air conditioning units throughout the year.
It took me most of an hour to pace the complex, stopping at the clubhouse and swimming pool where I took note of the remains of a Christmas party. I wonder how strict Barbara is with the deposits. I’d be hard pressed to refund this host his $100 without another swipe at the bathrooms. Yuck.
Someone had left a window open as well. I walked to it and paused. Across the pool stood Building H, where Abigail had evidently lived. I might be looking at her old apartment. I pulled the receipt from the file under my arm and stared at it and then at the building. Although it seemed irrefutably clear, I was, as the British might say, that confused.
Do you suppose confusion isn’t a way of pausing the action? Have you ever wanted to world to just stop and catch its breath, or stop so that you could? I do. A lot. Maybe this quiet moment among the beery Herculon sofas was a way of stopping the world for me.
Abigail had lived here before moving to Arborgate. Coincidence? If not, what did it mean? Barbara’s and Tina’s questions, even their promptness in sending flowers for the funeral suggested, what? That they had known her? Had she moved to Arborgate in advance of Mr. Eberhard’s purchasing the complex? Perhaps as a kind of spy? Getting the lay of the land, as it were.
Building H showed no sign of life. The parking spaces before it were empty. Despite the growing darkness no lights shone from within, though in the buildings around it I could see faint Christmas trees glowing behind the embedded balconies.
It is December 26. I am standing in the Belleview clubhouse in Atlanta, Georgia. I recited these facts to myself as a mantra. I do this periodically when I’m feeling lost or more than ordinarily disconcerted. I will always do this, though I will not always feel quite so intensely “funhouse” mad. I am standing in a white room smelling of beer and peppermint and I am staring out a window at a swimming pool where the water has sunk below level and which looks as if its smells of slime. The light is sparse and chill. I am not home.
Without warning I found myself sobbing. Never saw them coming, heaves like boulders up and over my mouth, an open hole full of hot drool and the color blue before me – ah – my corduroy coat. I must be bent over double.
It was over in a flash. No one had seen yet I felt embarrassed and hot. What on earth had shaken me so? I was not home. I am not home and I don’t know when I ever would be.