Rocking the Bottom

I’ve seen it, several times,
although much later in my own life.
It’s in the eyes
of men who
all had owned real estate
on the hopeless end
of Rockbottom Drive.

I didn’t want to find out
for myself what
was behind that look, though.
My dad made sure, as
He let me visit the address once.

His friend the sheriff
let him bring me to the jail
one Saturday when
the cells were vacant and clean.
I was probably 11 or 12.
“Go on in,” he said, smiling.
I remember the thrill.
I’d seen this on TV.
Every boy secretly roots
for the outlaw, a little.
My imagination was full of
Wild Bill Hickok and Al Capone.

But then I stepped over that cold
threshold, green-paint on the bars,
the smell of disinfectant,
bare concrete floors, stone
walls, painted with 80 years of paint,
in the 1890s Ohio courthouse jail.

The air got colder and I
left the warm confines of normal.
One step, like so many had taken,
felt final, desolate.
The walls and ceiling closed in.
The big iron door clanged shut,
echoed down an empty hall,
the sound of hopelessness.

Dad stood, watching,
let me feel it for a few minutes
and opened the door when I’d had enough.
Said nothing more. Took me
to the soda fountain in the old hotel,
bought me a cherry Coke.
I decided, watching the bubbles,
that I’d heard enough…
The sound of the iron door
still echoes on Rockbottom Drive.

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