The streets to the west of Flatbush are block-long “courts” dead-ending at the B/Q tracks and lined with apartments and row houses built, with many flourishes, at the turn of the last century.* I walked down one of them, Westbury Court, to check it out and take pictures. Back home, looking for more information on the history of the street and its rather grand apartment buildings, I mostly came up empty – but I did learn that the writer Edwidge Danticat lived there for a few years as a teenager and that she used the street’s name as the title of an essay about loss and memory.
I read the essay yesterday afternoon, for the first time. It tells of a fire, dead children, a shooting, run-of-the-mill burglaries. While taking pictures and thinking about lunch, I had stumbled into a dense thicket of memory, lives, ghosts.
I wish I’d been less clueless and more reverential, that I’d treated the block as hallowed ground. But, you know, it’s all hallowed ground. Westbury Court just happens to have an extraordinary storyteller to remind us of that fact.
*My go-to source in this case being Adrienne Onofri’s Walking Brooklyn.