Home Town Metal Heart
Recently I went on an errand to pick up some large pieces of metal from my home town. While I travel a lot, I only pass through Caledonia once a year at most. Sometimes I feel pangs of guilt about how infrequently I visit; other times I feel strangely smug at having escaped, which is ridiculous, since I only live 15 minutes away and often fantasize about one-day buying back my childhood home. In my youth I had a reoccurring dream in which I would return as an adult to find the buildings taller, brighter and eerily unpopulated. Different parts of the town came to take on different emotional significance. The locations seemed to sprawl and change with each reiteration of the dream. The old, cigarette-smoky arcade always featured as an enveloping, amorphous structure. It was both inviting and intimidating, always in a new location. Inevitably, at some point in the dream I would be drawn in to this arcade and through winding isles of strange, arcane games until I found it: the yellowed and beat-up Super Contra unit. I would play until I reached the huge helicopter near the end of level one. With the plasma-spread rifle I’d hammer away at the explody pieces until the chopper’s pulsing blue heart was revealed. As I blasted, the heart would pulse faster and faster… and faster still. That’s when I’d wake in terror.
My recent visit to Caledonia felt shockingly like that dream. The streets were empty and the sun was being swallowed into the Grand. The buildings seemed strangely taller, modernized with stucco and fancy, flashing lights. But the old arcade was nowhere to be found — moved underground, no doubt, into suburban basements, handsets and hearts. There was no pulsing centre or twisted helicopter wreck at the end of my visit. Just a gangly, metal bedframe (that my wife had tracked down on Kijiji) rusting in an anonymous garage. I paid Frank 40 dollars and loaded the brown bones into Heather’s Mazda. I have them here in our Ancaster home, ready for assembly.