When driving through the neighborhoods of Tuscaloosa, there is a cacophony of sounds that you can hear all at once. The soft wheeze of feet pressing on the brake, the low hum of car windows lowering, and the bright, larking echo of the phrase,
"I don't even remember what used to be here."
In all the talk of how much I love my town and how my heart has grown big enough to put all of Tuscaloosa inside of it, this collective sound reminds me of a truth that is hard to swallow: I didn't always appreciate my town when it was whole. There are long stretches at the end of Hargrove Rd. where I look out over the foundations and think to myself, I don't even know what this used to look like. Why didn't I pay attention to you, Tuscaloosa? Why did I never take the time to walk every inch of you, memorizing every house, every streetlamp, ever side street? I feel like I never took the time to notice the beauty in this city, all the old buildings and back ways and train tracks and ugly signs. And now I don't remember. And now those parts are gone for good.
Everywhere we drive now, the line of sight is so drastically different. But now, with each drive down 15th St. and every turn onto 13th Ave. I forget a little more of what things used to look like. The cute little houses next to Lenny's, the apartments that used to line Hargrove, now in my memory are just ruined landscapes. Now they are spray-painted shells and piles of wood and concrete slabs. Now they are nothing but the sounds of bulldozers and jack hammers and news reports.
Can we remember better? Is there a way that all of us, with all this beautiful Tuscaloosa history inside of us, can protect the memories that we have before we lose them to this new horrific sight? Can we all collect photos we took around this place, tape them up on all 4 walls of a single room, and re-create the unharmed landscape of a college town that will never be again? Tell me we can make it real. Tell me we can all help each other remember. Tell me we can drive down the streets and hear those noises, those brakes, those windows, and whisper to our passengers, "Let me tell you what this used to look like. I remember it perfectly."