In 1982, I’d walk up Tunisia Road to Ardennes Circle – all of the roads on Fort Ord were named along those lines – and I’d pick up my friend Craig. We’d go another block or so, and then cut between two houses to what we just called The Path. On the other side of a thick wooden board, which we’d duck under, The Path led down what seemed like a mountain to our elementary school, and we walked down and then back up every day of the school year.
I moved away. Many years passed.
I thought about that walk often. It became, as do many things removed from us by time and by distance, something more than it was. It peeled itself out of mere space and became a part of my childhood. The hill became steeper, the path longer and wider, the trees around it became overhanging canopy. It all fell into a kind of personally-writ legend, and the stuff of legend is never visited again.
But in 2010, I found myself back in Monterey for a job interview. The job was at the college that took over a large part of Fort Ord when BRAC closed the base in 1994. I was five minutes from the street where I lived, and I had to go back.
I pulled off my dress shoes and slipped on some sneakers. I parked near where Craig’s house had been – it and my house had long since been demolished – and walked across the street to where The Path began.
The board was still there. I stared at it a long time. Then I walked around it and started down the hill.
Everything, of course, was small. The path was narrow, rutted almost to impassibility by runoff and erosion. The trees were sparse, the hill was shallow and short, and I was at the school in just minutes.
I spent the rest of the afternoon in a blue funk, unsure exactly as to why.
I’m not sure there is one.
I’m still not sure I should have walked around that board.