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On the Edge of Sunset

Ronmar The Only

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Ronmar The Only

On the Edge of Sunset


A nonfiction essay for my creative nonfiction class



First Days


My older sister stood with her hands on the screen door, looking out of the trailer. Heather would be six in a few months, on December 25, 1988. I’ve known her birthday to cause some issue throughout our childhood, particularly when she was supposed to celebrate it and when to celebrate Christmas, though it is harder to move Christmas celebrations than to move birthday celebrations. And then there was always the matter presents. It is hard for a child to really note the difference between a Christmas and birthday presents. I mean, one could do an eye test and compare the size or amounts of presents, but maybe some are more expensive or might have more sentimental value. All I know is, I would not want to be Christmas baby. But none of that mattered as she stood looking out the screen door. A storm raged outside. She couldn’t not look.


It was August 8, 1988, the third day after my birth and the first day I was taken home. I know nothing of this place that was home for my family then. It was a trailer on the old family farm on my mother’s side. Her parents had died sometime before my birth. I’ve never asked much about them and never been told much either. All I know is that my grandfather fought in World War II and is my namesake, Robert. I know nothing of my grandmother. It isn’t something I necessarily regret, more of an ignorance is bliss feeling possibly.


As the storm raged outside of the tiny trailer, my mother rushed around with me in her arms not knowing what to do. I was still to small to be let go of. She finally composed herself after minutes of worry and took me to the bathroom where we got into the tub. She said prayers for both of us.


“Mommy, what’s that?” My sister’s words were just loud enough and our mother realized that she left her first born pointing out through the screen door. While our mother gave birth to Heather when she was eighteen, I don’t blame her for forgetting about sister when confronted with such a situation days after my birth. A few years from this moment, my mother will forget me when taking us to school. She’ll come around 8:30 a.m. and say how she’s sorry to her young son whose arms are crossed. Just another one of those moments between the two of us we’ll never forget.


My mother lifted herself out of the bathtub with me in tow. She pulled Heather away from the screen door as the six year old still pointed at the large darkness approaching. Together we wait in the bathtub till the storm passed. I know nothing more of the tornado that decided I was important enough to visit on my first day home. We all survived without a scratch. I have done some research into the matter and have never found any recorded tornado in East Tennessee that day. I still believe my mother and sister though.



A Childhood Close to Friends


My family lived in three different homes when I was a child though, as said, I know nothing of the trailer that was our first. We would move to our first house at some point when I was one or two years old. It was located on Sunset Drive in my hometown. I cannot recall how the sunset appeared from there, but hopefully it was a spectacle and not misadvertising like Greenland. In that part of the small neighborhood, our house was the first building on the left with one directly across from it that seemed to have new people living in it every year. From that point, the road rose up at an incline that always caused me to breathe heavily walking up it, particularly because inclines did not always agree with the husky kid. There were two houses on the right and one on the left before the road split making an oval around the rest of the neighborhood. I cannot tell you how many houses were along this oval. I can say that I rarely walked on the right side for there were several houses with dogs that constantly barked always frightening me.


Our house was a nice, little place. Two bedrooms, a bath, a living room, a dining room and kitchen on the first floor with a basement of one bedroom and bath along with a den and washer & dryer spot. Everything needed in a starter home. On the front side of the house towards the road, my dad had built a sizable porch. I still remember playing Star Trek with an older friend from across the street on that porch. We would turn the wooden furniture a certain way so that the tops would be sideways like the consoles on the Enterprise and act as if we were attacking Klingons or Romulans or the Borg. The right side of the house had the driveway and the main entrance to the first floor whereas the left side went down to the basement. In the small backyard, we would eventually have a trampoline placed there.


While we moved there as a family, my parents divorced before I was three in ’91. I have no memories of us as a family and from what I’ve been told, it is probably best that I do not. Some of my first memories of my stepfather come from what I would say to people in my first school years: there was a fire at our house, and then there was a new man that came and took care of us. I doubt things happened that way, or at least that quickly, but that is what I remember saying to people. The fire happened sometime in 1990 in the middle of the night. My older sister was the one who alerted everyone to it. It was not a serious fire in that the house did not need massive reconstruction, yet there was plenty of smoke damage forcing us to replace most of the interior items. I do recall a Terminator toy that I lost in it, though that could just be my younger self imagining that I had such an awesome toy. I remember that it allowed you to take the mechanical skeleton and dip it in some liquid that would give it a human exterior like Arnold Schwarzenegger. I doubt that it was real.


The major fond memory of that house on Sunset was that I was surrounded by friends. There was the older boy who I played Star Trek with that lived across from us, though I do not believe his family lived there long for I remember another family either before or after that had the coolest Wolverine action figure with a removable mask. In the neighborhood separated by a tree line behind my house, lived two boys my age named Alex and Spencer. I played a lot over there, but Alex had a large dog bigger than either of us that always scarred me some. I think Spencer might have been as large as the dog though, at least, back then.


Cameron was a boy my age that lived in my neighborhood though further up the road towards the left side of the oval. I wouldn’t say that we had a friendship as much as we were the same age in a neighborhood who play together some. While jumping on the trampoline in my backyard once, his feet slipped into the springs causing him to fall backwards off of it only to be flipped back onto the mat face first. I don’t believe it broke his nose, but it definitely blooded it. Though that event was relatively dramatic, there was one night where I was supposed to stay the night at his house. The details of why I did not stay over escape me, but I did walk back down to my house. Sadly, my parents were not home causing me to sit outside for some time till they returned.


While I had several friends my own age, my biggest and probably best friend then was Jeff. He was older than me, around the age of my sister, and lived towards the top of the oval in a small house. I only really remember going to his house instead of having him come to mine, a deal I definitely got the worse of since I always had to walk up the hill. We would play video games, wrestle with action figures, physically wrestle, and watch wrestling. It was definitely a friendship based on wrestling, but the ‘sport’ was bigger than life in the nineties with the Monday Night War between WCW and WWF.



A New House


By 1996 our family was too large for the house on Sunset. My mother remarried in ’92 and had my younger sister in ’93. My parents found a larger place by having a new house built on Edgewood which was located at the bottom of a wooden hillside. It was secluded with trees surrounding three-fourths of it with the other portion open to the road. It was the first house on the left of the road coming from the bottom of the hill. There was a house across from ours, though it was further up the hill with plenty of woods between the two. The new house was two floors and a basement with plenty of new space. My room was on the second floor with my younger sister. For several of the next years, my room was painted blue with a section hosting clouds and a toy airplane. The crazy thing was that I never was really into airplanes. Star Trek, yes. Airplanes, no.


I remember the first meal the family had in the new house. We all piled into the jeep and picked up some McDonald’s before heading there. The house was just a skeleton of a building then of wood planks placed and a roof giving a unobstructed view of the woods around. Mother always said one of the reasons they built there was how the neighborhood would look in winter with snow. Too bad it rarely snowed during my childhood. We would have a slight dusting, and you could catch a glimpse at how nice those woods could look with snow heavy on the branches, but it was always fleeting moments.


The ground immediately surrounding the house had been dug out ten feet down and two across for the workers to build the foundation and the basement. I looked down and saw the fine line of dirt that had been cut. We crossed that moat over a worn plank one by one between the garage and the kitchen. Inside, the construction crew had began placing in the wiring, though it was not finish yet leaving electric cords of blue and red clearly exposed. It interested me greatly to see the barebones of things, and I ran my hand over everything I could.


We ate the McDonald’s on the floor of what would be the breakfast nook. We would never really eat there as a family during the first years after the house was complete. The island table in the kitchen nearby would see most of our food consumption, but that was only because five could eat around it easier compared to the round table my parents would place in the nook with only four chairs. They would always say how they should’ve made that area bigger, but at that moment on the floor, we had plenty of room. I cannot for the life of me remember what we talked about while eating.



Growing Up on Edgewood


For the longest time, I had an idea in my head that my childhood ended when I moved to the house on Edgewood. In this thought, I never really kept in touch with those friends whether they were the ones my age or older. I believed I was left to my own devices at the new house, divided away from all those things that had made my childhood, particularly the ability to walk over to a friend’s house. The simple truth of the matter is that that memory of my childhood ending was a lie. There are many memories of me hanging out with Jeff, at his house, where we either watched wrestling events that did not happen till after we moved, like the Montreal Screwjob of Bret Heart in late ’97. I remember a birthday party at Spencer’s house in middle school where anybody who was anybody was invited.


I also recall having another friend over, Justin, at my new house. We were playing with wrestling actin figures. Back in the day, those were some of the hottest toys. I remember spending all my birthday money one time at the Toys’R’Us getting wrestler after wrestler. I even had one of the giant rings for them, but anyone who has watched wrestling knows that the ring is just part of the setting. That day Justin, we created almost an entire stadium. We surrounded the ring with thin books to act as the mats and made walls with VHSs. The crowning achievement was an announcers’ table that we built on the ramp down to the ring. My Vince McMahon sat there with either Jerry “The King” Lawler or Jim Ross. Anyways, at some point time Stone Cold Steve Austin became upset with McMahon and sought him out. The only hiccup to the incident was that the table we had placed them on suddenly collapsed, and one of the books came down on Austin’s head immediately decapitating him. Neither of us noticed the little, shaved, plastic head roll around, but we were quite stunned to see the action figure without it. It was easily found and glued back on, but I find more than coincidental that Austin had neck problems throughout his career.


The defining thing of the house on Edgewood would be the get togethers that I eventually hosted. There was one party that I threw very early on, while I was still in junior high. Back then the basement was unfinished, as it would stay for a time before. Eventually parents decided that after seven years of living in the new house, the basement should be finished. Though at that first party, the floors were still cold concrete and the walls were stone. While not being finished, there were a few old items down there such as a dresser, couches and a futon. In one part of the basement, I had set up my Playstation 2, that my stepfather says he fought an old lady for at the Wal-Mart that first Christmas it was out, where the main attraction was Dragon Ball Z: Budokai, a fighting game. We were all diehard fans of the anime. The only thing that really sticks out besides that game was how my stepfather got onto us several times throughout the late night about being too loud. The final time I heard his steps above us starting at my parents’ bedroom on one side of the ceiling to the entrance to the stairs on the other, I made everyone become quiet. No one made a sound - I could be quite convincing back then - though one of my friends began eating a tortilla chip. Now, I don’t know if you’ve ever noticed how loud it can be eating chips, but the crunch of every bit reverberated on the walls. I turned and stared down at my friend. What happened? The one next to him grabbed a chip and bit down as well. Friends.


That was only the first party in that basement. After my older sister moved out of the bedroom down there, I moved in with Justin’s help. Originally I stayed on the second floor of the house, but there comes a time when every young man seeks out his own space. Me? I took over the basement. After it was finished, I set up my basic things in the bedroom: a dresser, bed and so forth. It was outside in the downstairs living room where I set up all my gaming consoles that would be a haven for my friends throughout my junior and senior years. There is a little game called Halo 2 that you may not be aware of. Let’s just it is a first-person-shooter in a futuristic setting with aliens, that pretty much explains it. Note: I was not as into it as some of my friends. Personally I am a more tactical shooter kind-of-guy and back then I played Rainbow Six 3 plenty, but Halo 2 was designed so that you could take guests online with you, something that I cannot remember a shooter allowing you to do back in the day.


There were plenty of nights that some of my younger friends, people who were sophomores while I was a senior, would come over and play Halo 2. These friends mostly consisted of Preston, Nate and Fred. Other friends who were in the same grade as me would also come over, like Justin, Joey and Eric. We did not only play the game; it was generally the beginning of a get together. Generally, the night would go on for sometime before we decide to drive to Athens, which had a more active late night scene with the 24 hrs Wal-Mart and Steak ‘n Shake. We would go to the Wal-Mart and mess around, either tossing footballs or bouncy balls at each other to playing hid and seek. I even remember Nate driving around one of the electric carts. He was always such a cock-sure preppy type. After messing around or being politely asked to leave when we hear the old “Security check section C” or something over the intercom, we would go to Steak ‘n Shake.


The place didn’t really have good food so much. I mean, it was a lot a greasy stuff plus plenty of desserts. There is one memory of that place I’ll never forget. The night was like any other, with one major difference. Typically, the crowd that you may run into at a Steak ‘n Shake late at night would consist of old people or druggies, besides us of course. That night, though, there was a group of college boys and girls, about four of each. Our group was probably one of the larger ones that night, everyone in attendance. We, being red-blooded young men, paid attention to the ladies. While nothing stands out at the time, there has always been a rivalry between guys, especially groups of guys. Basically, it goes something like this: if I can get your girl to check me out, f*ck you. There was definite overtures for both parties sat in the sectioned off part of the restaurant. We looked at them, they looked at us and the looks were not always kind. Things settled down though. It was mostly Nate who kept up hostilities, while his words are lost to me, they mostly centered how one particular girl was hot and he was willing to go out back with her. Nothing happen during our meal. But the night growing later and closer to morning, and we had plenty of other things to indulge.


Most of my friends got up to stroll out, the only way out of the sectioned space going, of course, right next to the college kids. We probably planned something, but Eric, Nate and I left together after several moments of our other friends already walking out with some of them looking through the glass from the outside. We each looked at the other, nodding. As we were about to pass their table, one of the quickly slid his chair blocking the path through. Eric, who we’ve always considered someone bi-polar and once threw down and wailed on one of his oldest friends in History class because the guy touched his hair, was the first to speak. Trust me, his words were not the happiest, but Nate’s, who followed him up speaking, were worse. Me? Good ole, Tyler? I simply pointed out that we were just walking out of the restaurant and these older boys got in our way and were preventing us from leaving. Anything that happened after that, we would just point that we were fearful and sought to defend ourselves. But, I was not always the happy go-lucky guy I am these days back then. I had plenty of fire in me, just like my other two friends, and I’m sure some of it seeped into my words. It took several moments of hard looks, but the guy got out of our way. As with most things, we never saw them again, not we didn’t go back to Steak ‘n Shake plenty of times.

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