When he was thirty-five, Greg Pompton switched jobs again. His new job was in the city and made it necessary again to take the train. He’d been commuting to the city for nearly two weeks when he looked up from his paper one morning and saw a familiar-looking house rush by, blue siding and a grey roof. Later that morning, in the office, it hit him: that was Uncle Dave’s house. That was whose house it was. Or reminded him of. He remembered to look the next few days, and it seemed to him that it was the house, but he’d only been there as a child, so he’d never known where it was. And he lived in a small family, and not particularly close, so he didn’t have anybody to ask. His parents were dead.
His memories of Uncle Dave were vivid: a tall long-haired man, always raging or laughing or both. But Greg could never remember what the laughter or anger concerned. He knew his parents sometimes argued about his father’s brother, but not why. Uncle Dave disappeared and reappeared and sometimes a casual comment from his father or mother let Greg know Uncle Dave had run off to somewhere again, or had returned.
One night, coming home, he picked up a newspaper another commuter had left behind, and there on the front page was the house that might have been Uncle Dave’s. H smiled as he read: the owner had left years ago, and never returned. He stopped smiling. Homeless people had taken it over. Squatters.
Greg lowered the paper to his lap and looked out of the window, nodding to himself. Sometimes a home was important. He knew how often he felt comfortable in his home, although lately, when he looked at his wife, he sometimes took a moment to remember her name. A beautiful woman. People told him how lucky he was, and he knew that. Melissa, that was it.
Sometimes he would look at the house and see what might have been movement behind the curtains in the windows. The squatters. Or maybe Uncle Dave had come back. If it was his house.
Greg would find himself, always at night for some reason, with his nose pressed against the glass of the train window, looking through his reflection at the house as it appeared and grew and shrunk and slid behind him, behind some trees, as the laughter or cursing of the wheels rattled on in rhythm and carried him toward and away from where he really lived.