It’s a warm summer day.
Just warm, not hot or humid enough to be stifling. I have the door propped open and the windows up, to let in as much fresh air as I can. I can hear kids laughing as they play in the yard next door, and the crunch of gravel as they ride bikes down the street outside. I can’t join them, and to be honest, I hate the sound of their happiness. I don’t like to admit that, but I do. I hate it because they’re outside enjoying themselves and I’m inside, opening a new box of garbage bags because I ran out of the others. It turns out that it takes a lot of garbage bags to pack up a life.
I am in my house on Maple Street, and my mother has gone to Minnesota. We’ve lived here a few years, and it had been a celebration when we first arrived. It was us leaving behind the old cobweb filled house and moving somewhere new. I can remember what my mom said when we walked through the front door. This will be our haven, she had said. Our safe place. But the alcohol followed us here, and so did a stepdad and stepsiblings, and parties and fighting and texts that said ‘come get me’.
It was a few weeks ago that she asked to move to Minnesota, and I told her to go. I knew what would happen if she stayed here, but I didn’t know what would happen in Minnesota. It seemed like there was at least a fighting chance there. I had told her that I would figure it out, and so here I was, left behind in the house that she had sold. I have two weeks left to pack everything up and get out, not the two months I had been promised, so I have to figure out things much faster than I had thought.
My stepmom is with me. It was nice of her to help, and we talk as we clear out the cabinets under the kitchen sink. Who knew how much could fit under there? I clear out cleaning supplies and a tin full of coins, and I try to crack jokes because otherwise it’s too sad. The kitchen is a bright yellow, with white curtains that are drifting ever so slightly in the breeze. The perfect kitchen for a warm summer day. I should be standing at the counter and looking out over the neighborhood, sipping on tea or lemonade, thinking about who I want to visit or what book I want to read next. I shouldn’t be trying to figure out if I can be bothered to hold onto our Santa cookie jar, or if my mom wants to hold onto this picture of her and her golfing buddies.
The screen door opens, and I look up to see who’s in our house. It’s the woman who will be moving in two weeks from now, when I’m gone. She opens the door wider to let in her friends, not even acknowledging me, though some of her friends give questioning glances. Who’s that in the kitchen? They must be wondering. What are they doing? But no one asks. The woman just starts giving them the grand tour, telling them what she’ll do with the floor space, where she plans on hanging up her pictures. The women with her chime in their own ideas. They talk about ripping up the carpet, and I want to scream.
This is my house, I want to scream. It’s still my house. It’s not yours. You’re the strangers here! This is my life. You can’t just waltz in here and take my life! This was supposed to be my safe haven! I want to chase them down and make sure they hear it – but I don’t scream anything, of course. I just go back to packing.
I make a lot of promises to myself today about what my future kids wouldn’t have to deal with.