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Billy’s House

A story I wrote about this house that has never been occupied in the neighborhood I grew up in.

Decrepit buildings are very alluring.

My sister and I would visit Billy’s house often. Even after our parents forbade us, we still lied to them and went. They were under the impression that his parents were alcoholics who were raising a corrupt child, when we, in fact, never saw his parents. Ever. The house was always empty, which gave us the freedom to delve into our imaginations and go on fantastic adventures. We’d return home and tell our parents of our wild and magical day. They never believed us and grew tired of our stories. That’s when we learned to keep to ourselves - which made our visits to Billy’s even more fun, as they were super secret missions.

We never once asked where his family was, we’d just immediately hop into a storyline: hiding from dinosaurs as we snuck behind furniture, summoning fairy dust and making magicians appear and disappear as we clapped dusty cushions together. Outside was even more fantastic. We’d discover alien creatures in the grass - which became a jungle certain times of the year when the blades would grow up to our belly buttons. We’d always leave before it got dark, since the lights never worked and we understood the adult frustration of paying bills, as our parents would sometimes complain about them.

Eventually, we all went our separate ways, but I would still write Billy letters. Over just a few years, I’d write him whenever something new or exciting happened in my life, or when I was just recalling old storylines. He never once responded and I, in turn, gave up trying to stay in touch.

Just a few months ago, I found myself driving through my old neighborhood and came across Billy’s house. I pulled over and observed - everything was more decrepit than ever, yet still somehow felt the same. I knocked on the door and realized no one was home. The door was locked, so I pressed my face up against the window. The same furniture was there, but much more dingy and neglected. I strained my eyes to see the pile of mail that had fallen out of the slot by the door and onto the ground. There was a lot of junk, but I could make out my handwriting and stationary. I quickly realized what the reality of the situation was after all those years and the fact that I couldn’t even remember what Billy had ever looked like, or what face we imagined him to have.

Watercolor, gum bichromate, Cyanotype, photo oil on watercolor paper.

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