I came back to Massachusetts for one night to watch my friend compete in the Miss Massachusetts pageant and to say a final farewell. Specifically, I needed to say goodbye to this place. The people—dynamic, responsive, moving, I am not so concerned about. For some reason it keeps hurting my feelings that Massachusetts doesn’t track me down. This apartment, which I don’t want to give up, has been my first real home. How can I get over the fact that I will never live here again? The lesson I have learned is that if you let something go, you can almost certainly never, ever have it back again.
When I walked in after the pageant, the whole place smelled like new paint. I wanted to say goodbye but the apartment doesn’t remind me of living here. It reminds me of when I was a child and my family moved to Colorado into a freshly-painted house. Before there was anything there, I walked from room to room, sitting down for a few minutes in each, drawing a little in my coloring book. I wanted to remember it that way. Even at five, I wanted to try living, a bit, in each of the rooms. I made anagrams of life in little illustrations of cartoon characters.
I’m sure I wanted to be able to look at those pictures later and know that I had drawn them in each of the rooms. The coloring book, I’m sure, was discarded as soon as it was filled.
It’s the kind of thing where you don’t feel sad until you’re in the place, and then it freaks you out. Have you been sad all along and just not known? How much have I dissociated and how much of this is just part of the sad truth that we cannot live parallel lives? I don’t know why this is a question of pathology. The pathologically suppressed, I suppose, is more dangerous because the debt will eventually get paid. If I cannot properly mourn this place now, I will certainly be forced to do it in the future. I want to do it in this room. But after all these years in therapy I have learned a lot of things. One of them is that even the healthy, returns to haunt.
A week ago—almost two—it felt like I lost it all. In a moment of extreme panic, I reached in all directions, hoping there would be some fall back to safety. Abort. I wanted to abort. I wanted to say: okay, I gave this a go and it didn’t work and now I’m ready for plan B. But there was nothing else. There was only waking up and going on and waking up again. Even when the days are joyful—there is only waking up and going on, waking up and going on again.
Drifting, for the first time in a long time, I reminded me of me. It was scary both because I’m glad that I’ve changed and also because I’m sad that I cannot have all the parts of me at once. History, it always used to feel, was the truest part.
It’s hard to say goodbye to inert companions of all types. Place: you kept me such good and terrible company!
[Among other heart-breaking parts: the crack of the bus as it switches lines, the treetops, the endless and predictable opportunity for solitude, so many rooms to walk between (three), a large bathroom, how much fit into that small space, and everything I witnessed on the street below.]
The apartment also reminds me of the first night I moved here. September 1, 2006: I brought up my suitcase, alone. I unrolled my blanket in the corner where my bed was going to be. I went to the supermarket and bought a third of a pound of roast beef and an apple. I ate it on the floor with all the lights on and curled up to go to bed and thought, this is how my life is going to be.
But it wasn’t. It was another way, in the same room, with the burning out over time and me never knowing which wattage bulbs to buy until the whole place faded from its uniformity to a frustrating patchwork of off-whites. Only that first night was that way.
I am not five anymore. It’s been twenty years and still I am trying to figure out how to live in a world in which time is not reversible. I am still trying to not be acutely hurt by the simple fact that I live in a world in which time is not reversible.
I think about walking over to Tufts, through Davis. I consider a tour of Somerville. I feel pressure to savor this, even though savoring is not all that different from anything else. I sit down in the place where my bed was. I open my computer. I am certain now (although it only makes it hurt more) that the important part is not the place but the pulling. And because I might not ever be able to control the shape of my home, I continue to draw.