Thursday, June 16, 2011

The Irony of Good Fortune (an excerpt from a larger piece)

It was not an accident that I attended USC, which was within easy walking distance from my old neighborhood.  I considered other universities, some of which were out of the way.  But at that time, I wanted to stay close to home in the LA area, and I knew at some level that going to USC would have a special ironic meaning to me.  One that said, “Anything in this life can happen.”  I could be born on one side of the tracks, looking across to a major university with little likelihood of ever attending it, and then life could go by and I might just find myself in that school looking back from the other side.

And what was it like to actually go to USC, knowing that my life had started just outside of those black gates?  It was indeed weird.  I felt that I had extra life experience with the area that other students didn’t, but that I would seldom if ever disclose this fact to any schoolmates.  Not so much because there was shame attached, of which there was a little, but more because it was such a long and involved story that without knowing all of it, friends might misinterpret the complexity of my history there.  So I generally said nothing of it.

But down the street, on Adams and Hoover, was the little park that had once been a gas station where my mother, father and I would cut across to get to Eddy's Market near Union and 23rd streets, and other points beyond.  I might be at University Village while a student at USC, going to the market or going to the movies, and just down the street was my biological mother, still living in the same bungalow on Toberman Street that she moved into after my father split with her from the Portland Street apartment and took me to an apartment on Scarff Avenue.  I don’t know if it was really a good thing for me during my time at USC to have all of that immediacy to my before-life.  But there was an intrinsic pull in me from when I was adopted that desired that still desired some amount of proximity to it all in order to maintain some connection with my first life. 

Every once in a while, maybe after classes or when I was on my way somewhere, I would drive down one of those aforementioned streets and see where it had all happened.  I often felt lonely while doing this; repercussions of abandonment passed through me like ghostly aftershocks of a time long passed.  I suspect it’s why I didn’t make those visits too often, yet often enough.

In hindsight, I think my university experience would have been more complete had I gone away to a school in another part of the country.  Being in a totally different place and acclimating would have been a good experience.  One summer during my university years, I traveled with a friend on a bus to different places that gave me insight into how other people lived.  However, at that time in my life, when there were still questions to be answered, going away was unthinkable.  There was another reason for my having chosen USC; something that had been in the back of my mind for many years, and through which attending USC could also give me access; finding my sister.