On Loma Vista Street, my writing space started out on a desk my father-in-law had found in his Johnstown, Pennsylvania, alley and refinished. I pushed it up against a window in the corner of our bedroom in 2002 and wrote nearly every day, a lifetime of words finally finding purchase, as I gazed across Arizona’s baking asphalt and cement.
Inside, a lot of living went down—a niece fleeing the meth house she grew up in, came to live with us for a couple years. She kicked in the door of a bedroom I would later coat with thin yellow paint and call my office. My father finished his course as founder and fueler of my writer’s angst and died in that room. And there our dysfunction finally slept.
I wrote five novels in that house—wedged between too much living, crying paper tears for a son incarcerated for most of his twenty-first year, the niece who was finally over our effing rules and flew home to Hawaii. I wrote through anger boiling up around my eyeballs, through loud, wet prayers that seemed to change nothing—but me. I wrote because the words were a God-given grace that got me through the living I had to live.
While our new house was being built, I scrawled Bible verses on the boards—vows to live better here. The walls of my office are a thick honey yellow and I look out the window at a square of grass, a fledgling tree, and hope. The neighborhood thumps and groans to a Mexican radio station as houses rise up around me and I dredge memoir of Dad. Melancholy floats in the Phoenix heat. Not for the years Dad’s been gone, but for the ones he lived. The years I misunderstood. And on this new street, in this new house I write words that heal.