Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Dahling, I Love You, But Give Me Penn Avenue

It's official---I'm back in the city, slowly awakening from my suburban nightmare. Really, Silver Spring isn't so bad, but in 3 years I met no one, man---I mean, no one. I had already known the friends I had. Once I moved to the suburbs, I saw them less and less frequently. I never even swam in the pool; it was always full of the neighborhood darlings who should have been somewhere doing their homework or sweeping out a chimney. There's more energy here, no longer the rush to get on the road back home. Cab drivers no longer put me out on the street and yell "Silver Spring too far! too far!" And most excellent: A 15-minute commute to work. On foot. Free exercise, and no more hour-long torture on New Hampshire Avenue. I could get used to this.

Of course, I'm currently living in about 30 cardboard boxes. The movers glowered when I told them how many books there were, I thought they were going to kill me and stuff my body into a cardboard box. Could it be that Americans go missing every day because they've packed 10 big boxes of books and expect someone else to lift them? At least I told them to never mind the closets (i.e., the shoes and purses). I was saving those for the big man. God love him, Big did offer to move all the stuff in the closets while I was at work, and because I like to make a person feel good about volunteering, I let him do it. Could it be that Americans go missing every day because they've packed 5 big boxes of shoes and purses?

Big [glowering like a moving man]: You didn't tell me you had 5 boxes of shit! There's no room for my stuff now!
Me: Sure there is...somewhere.

Oh, fiddle dee dee, I'll worry about that tomorrow. The world is right when my shoes are happy.

Papa, Can You Hear Me?

Now comes the task of moving out my dad's belongings. Some clothes can go to my uncles. Furniture can go to Goodwill. I wasn't in a hurry to get rid of the hi-powered wheelchair until Big tried to run over one of my shoes with it. That sucker's got to go---and he can take the wheelchair with him.

While packing up my dad's stuff, I get unexpectedly sappy at times, even over the crap that's got to be junked. I forget that, with all my executrix tasks, I haven't had time to actually mourn the guy. Each little tchotchke, every old beaten up hat, is a goodbye. I keep looking for ghosts in the night; there are none. They really are gone, the both of 'em. Years ago, during their final knock-down-drag-out, I stepped between Mom and Dad, pulling their fists and claws off each other---I must've been about 17 or 18---and screamed at them, "I won't be free until both of you are dead in the ground!" They never fought after that. They left me screaming all by myself in the hall, went to their respective bedrooms, and didn't come out for the rest of the night. Roughly 20 years later, I have to say that I do feel free. And abandoned. And free. It's peculiar how love and hate can coexist in the same heart, neither cancelling out the other. I will never forget his atrocities, and I can never forget his tenderness. It hasn't been easy living with love turned to hate, and then hate turned to love. Makes one schizo; it's certainly the staple of any good depression and the foundation of my neurosis. When I stopped trying to explain this to him, that's when I knew I was a little closer to sanity. He was going to be fine if he didn't understand me. Now I had to be fine if he didn't understand me.

It's a truly mind-bending chore to turn my childhood home into my adult home. Around each corner lies a resurrected memory. My first bike, my first kiss, my brother's graduation, the Christmas no one celebrated. Places where I hid candy, places where I found guns. Arguments, screams, and the day I left home, when the world was laid out before me. There may be ghosts there after all.
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