While yesterday’s story was pure memory, today’s is a mix of fiction and reality. Some points are real, some are plucked from my imagination.
The key to this story is one emotion: the feeling you get when you leave a place you love behind.
I tried to hang onto that feeling as much as I could, and put it into words I could share with you.
As I packed up the last of my things in a small box, I looked around the empty apartment where I had lived for the last 15 years.
Two months ago, my girlfriend and I came across a cozy, renovated house for sale. It was so great, we made an offer on the spot, and three days later it was ours.
What followed was a whirlwind of activity as we packed up our lives and moved in.
Today I came by our old apartment for a final sweep, to make sure we didn’t forget anything. The classic “stupid check”, as my girlfriend calls it.
I found an old roll of duck tape on the counter, a box of tissues, and a sock that had fallen behind the dryer.
And to my surprise, I found a fistful of sadness, lodged in my chest.
I’ve long been a fan of not owning too much stuff, as I’ve moved frequently over the course of my life. Getting attached to objects and living spaces just seems futile when you eventually have to leave them behind.
This time, it was too much. I wandered around the empty apartment for a few minutes, and as a ball welled up in my throat, I closed my eyes and remembered.
I remembered moving in with my older brother when I was 18 years old. Our parents gave us money to buy good furniture. My brother and I squandered it all on booze and partying.
I remembered my mother visiting us months later. She freaked out when she saw we had no furniture, then went silent with anger at the sight of my new piercings.
I remembered the living room where my friends and I spent every day
playing video games, and getting high. I don’t get high anymore, although I still play games whenever I can.
I remembered my bedroom, where I whiled away my early twenties studying, and reading, and wishing for love.
I remembered my bed, where I lost my virginity to a 25-year-old cashier I had met at the bank. I never called her again, and have always regretted it.
I remembered years later, in that same bed, being told “I love you” by a woman, and saying it back for the first time. I meant it, although it didn’t last.
I remembered constantly fighting with my older brother when he was my roommate, and missing him terribly when he moved away. I remembered how he was unwavering in his support when I needed him, and how he offered me good life advice, even though he was still trying to figure it out himself.
I remembered how he took care of me as an older brother should, and how I used that as a model for how I would take care of my little sister when she moved in.
I remembered my sister almost setting our place on fire when she made microwave pancakes, accidentally setting the timer to 10 minutes instead of 10 seconds. I remembered doing all the cooking after that, while she agreed to do the dishes in exchange.
I remembered sharing the same deal with my girlfriend, who moved in with me after my sister moved out. We still share that deal to this day, although now I happily cook for our daughter as well.
I remembered my first attempt at beef stroganoff. It was incredibly spicy, and I couldn’t understand why. I remembered going through the ingredients one by one, only to discover I had mixed up the paprika and chili powder bags. My girlfriend and I shared a deep laugh at that, all the while crying from the heat in our mouths.
I remembered my girlfriend going out of town for a conference, and leaving me with her funny wiener dog. He ate a chocolate bar out of the garbage that night. I remembered calling the emergency vet in a panic, worried that I had accidentally killed her dog with my negligence. I stayed up all night, checking him for symptoms of shock. He was fine, albeit annoyed at my hourly poking.
I remembered my parents visiting, and all of us sitting in the living room as a family. My father cracked silly jokes as I munched on fruit and my sister studied and my mother and girlfriend chatted.
I remembered holding my girlfriend’s hand as she told me I was the man she wanted to spend the rest of her life with.
After reliving the last 15 years’ worth of memories in a few moments, I opened my eyes, and saw again the empty rooms.
I sighed, picked up my box, and walked out.
I’ll miss it.
If you enjoyed this story, you would be doing me an immense kindness if you: