On Compromise Street

The oldest house on Compromise Street was built in 1900. Two years ago on Compromise Street–rutted and barely paved, a forgotten street on the forgotten side of town–I found a kitten, malnourished, blinded, mewing. The turn-of-the-century house and its faux Arts and Crafts style with pitched porch roof on Compromise Street has meaning to me. I made a promise to that kitten in front of this house. I adopted her.

The street name was unusual for its time. In late 19th-century American towns, street names flourished with botany, poets, and presidents: Oak Street, Madison Street, Longfellow and Poe. “Compromise” has a harder edge; it suggests a struggle existed and then a deal struck. Near the river, at the edge of industry, it begins at an elbow in the road where South Street curves and boundaries blur.

I retrace my steps along Compromise Street, running north to south. I spy a replica suit of armor on one porch, a shark’s jaw nailed to the fence door at another house. At the north end, restored U.S. Army jeeps sit ready in a driveway. At the south end, a decayed home–red paint peeling from the wood siding, waist-high weeds, barn in the back with a “detour” sign on its door—signals there is no good time to visit.

In my head, Joni Mitchell writes a song about Compromise Street during her Jaco Pastorious phase, something slightly discordant. No “both sides now”* here.

To compromise implies sacrifice.  We agree to let go of what we wanted and bind ourselves to each other. We shake hands, we promise something, but we walk to our houses alone.

  • *”Both Sides Now,” written by Joni Mitchell for the album Clouds, 1969.

16 Comments On Compromise Street

  1. Maria Brinkley May 27, 2015 at 12:03 am

    Such a thoughtful piece of writing, Meg. Street names always have a history to them.

    Reply
    1. Meg May 31, 2015 at 5:33 am

      Thanks so much for your kind words, Maria. I love the history of names.

      Reply
  2. Julie Henahan May 27, 2015 at 12:18 am

    You are one of the most thoughtful writers. Long live Scout!

    Reply
    1. Meg May 31, 2015 at 5:34 am

      Awwww. Thanks, Julie. That means so much.

      Reply
  3. Silverleaf May 27, 2015 at 12:25 pm

    I love this, my dear friend. There is a certain freeness and openness to this piece, a sort of stream of consciousness. As though the reader is walking along the street and your thoughts with you. I always love your writing, as you know, but the freedom here is quite beguiling.

    Reply
    1. Meg May 31, 2015 at 5:36 am

      Silver! You are too kind. This was an exercise for a workshop I’ve got coming up. Tried to keep it to 250 words but didn’t quite swing it. It was hard!! xoxo

      Reply
  4. innatejames May 27, 2015 at 7:46 pm

    I think about the places that hold meaning in people’s lives. The field behind my parents house where we used to ice skate as a family, the grown-over parking lot that was once the video store that offered me my first job. The world must be entirely covered in unmarked monuments.

    Reply
    1. Meg May 31, 2015 at 5:38 am

      I do the same thing, Nate. I try to picture what used to be — or even more fun, how it looked to someone from another time and who walked along this street or that trail. Makes everything even more meaningful.

      Reply
  5. ywcourtenay May 27, 2015 at 8:15 pm

    I feel like I’m walking along side you down that street, the picture could be of where I am. Although, we do not have a Compromise Street here. Too hard-headed…

    Reply
    1. Meg May 31, 2015 at 5:39 am

      Courtenay — it is so nice to see your comment here! Thank you for reading.

      Reply
  6. Rosanna May 28, 2015 at 3:05 am

    This post is a wonderful example of how life provides us with writing prompts, if only we pay attention. I hope the kitten gave you lots of purr-fect memories!

    Reply
    1. Meg May 31, 2015 at 5:41 am

      Yes, prompts are everywhere. My cat, whose eyes had to be removed, is the source of a lot of inspiration. Thanks, Rosanna.

      Reply
  7. Asha May 28, 2015 at 12:50 pm

    “…but we walk to our houses alone” was such a perfect, powerful way to end this piece. Beautifully written as always!

    Reply
    1. Meg May 31, 2015 at 5:42 am

      Thank you, Asha! So glad you liked it. Not my best writing but sometimes you just gotta get something out there. <3

      Reply
  8. Stacie May 28, 2015 at 1:22 pm

    Ah Meg <3 Well done.

    Reply
    1. Meg May 31, 2015 at 5:43 am

      Muah! Thank you, Stacie!

      Reply

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