I don't remember how old I was when I first came across the forgotten junkyard. Most of the memories I keep from the ages of seven to fifteen that have taken on an impressionistic quality, as if someone has taken their hand and smeared it across the still-wet paint.
But I remember walking through the line of forest that cradled the 30 acres of land I grew up on, the smell of the decaying leaves wafting up with each step, the peculiar sort of silence that blankets places where human footprints are rare. I remember seeing the rusted plow, then the Pepsi can with a label that looked familiar yet foreign at the same time, then the burnished gold of an empty lipstick tube that was too ornate to be something that you'd find on a vanity today. And then I couldn't stop looking.
This was not a diamond in the rough; it was the rough spot on a diamond. This was a landfill in the midst of my sacred trees. The oasis of the forest, teeming with life, gave way to this display of decay, recalling days where trash was left behind without a second thought. Discarded memories lay on their sides, slowly sinking into the ground, waiting to be forgotten for good.
I stood. I looked, and I wondered, stories spinning in my head of the glamorous lady who had rolled the lipstick tube up and carefully painted her mouth and the man who had once looked at this plow with pride after a long day's work.
These false stories lingered in the air, fabrications of my imagination, and for a moment, this blighted mark in the middle of the forest looked more like a beacon, shining with possibilities. I knew I would return here because it was both mysterious and familiar, history in layers, begging to be explored.
And I did, for many years. I retraced my steps, always finding it right when I was sure this would be the time this portal to the past had closed. I discovered something new each visit: a set of curlers, a mason jar half-buried in the loamy soil with a fern growing steadily inside of it, a rusted Folger's can full of nails. My parents shrugged their shoulders when I asked where the forgotten junkyard had come from, but it didn't matter. It was there, and I had found it.
Someone else lives on those 30 acres now. I hope that, someday, as the smell of the decaying leaves surrounds each step he takes in the forest that I loved, he comes across the forgotten junkyard. And I hope that, for a moment, he pauses and wonders. Just like I once did.