(First published on Before It’s Gone Take It Back)
There’s a bodega no one remembers.
But I remember, I remember it was below my family’s Parkslope apartment on the corner of 10th and 4th.In 1984, my mother would take my siblings and I to it every day, she’d round us up, down four daunting flights of stairs. We’d go step by step like a flock of geese. I was the youngest and remember being held or holding my sister’s hand, she was the eldest. Inside the corner bodega, we learned it was never the right temperature–hot in August–cold in December. Upon entering, the owner offered us Tootsie Rolls, my mother placed in her basket simple things, like cayenne pepper and Domino sugar, while my brother would beg to pet their frail calico cat, my mother refused to let us, “Don’t! Because they have fleas, cats are ganda!”
These were my memories.
When my family left in the early 90’s for Long Island, I never thought I’d miss trips to the bodega for banal trips to The Store.
I also never thought I’d be back in my old neighborhood 15 years later and find out that no one knew of the bodega that once existed on the corner. All my neighbors were gone, all the children I grew up with, even Google Maps only went back to 2007.
The current owner of the cafe there only knew of a law office in the early aughts–you could imagine their face when I insisted there used to be a bodega here–”Right here where we’re standing!” But he shrugged his shoulders, it’s all he could do and continued to make a cappuccino.
As I was walking down 10th Ave., I leaned back over my shoulder at the brown-grey faded building, the one where life started for me, It’s like we knew each other’s secrets and found a way to keep standing here after all these years.