Your stuff was already gone: the clothes you wore that were in the closet, including the tan linen suit, crisp white shirt, and dark blue tie that you wore on our wedding day; the computer where you filled out your invoices (but not the desk and the chair- those were still here for me); the leather sofa and chair we had moved from the house we owned, to the apartment we didn’t want to move into, to the house we were now renting; the tools that cluttered up our small garage and made it hard for me to park; the silverware (my grandmother has extra); the plates (my sister has a spare set); all of the glasses except for 4 (I don’t need much); your shaving cream and razor (although there were still a few bits of stubble around the edge of the sink); your shampoo; your soap (I always insisted on having separate soap bars); the television we couldn’t afford when we lived in the house we owned; the artwork I was willing to part with; the dining table and chairs that your mother bought for you as a birthday present before we married; the boxy and modern lamp set; tubs of various knick-knacks and belongings that were packed up moves ago and never unpacked.
This was my last night in what was our house.
Standing in the middle of the living room, which would be completely empty except for a stack of framed prints and a single bench, I wondered how we had gotten to this place. It was like moving day in reverse. Everything had an uncomfortable echo to it- the clock ticking in the kitchen (had it always been that loud?), the sound of the air forcing itself through the vents, the rhythmic beating of my heart.
It was late, and I needed to get some sleep. For me, moving day would be in less than 12 hours. For you it had been the day before.
I walked into the bedroom and studied the bare queen-sized mattress (I had agreed to letting you take the bedding) and the small sofa that we had to cut the legs off of to get it to fit through the bedroom doorway. (Where had we put those, anyway?) I dug through one of the three plastic tubs sitting in the middle of the room until I came up with several towels. (That would have to do for now.) I fashioned one into a makeshift pillow and spread the others out for a blanket. (How long had it been since we had both slept in this bed? How long had it been when, so much heat being generated from two bodies, we’d had to pull back the blankets altogether?)
I flipped the overhead light off and flopped down on the bed, reaching for one of the towels as a cover. (This isn’t so bad. It’s kind of like camping, somehow. Only quieter. Much quieter. So quiet that the noise is almost unbearable.)
My mind drifts to you sleeping for the first night in your new apartment. Will you wake up in the middle of the night and, for a moment, think you are back here? Back and back and back before now, the time when we learn to unwind ourselves from ourselves. Undo the knots that years have made. Take turns working on the stubborn parts while the other fills out new address forms at the post office or announces the news to a friend not seen in months or shops for a new spatula.
Here we will begin the process of getting to un-know each other.
Photos in piles: Keep. Keep but look at later. Put in the mail in a padded envelope addressed to an apartment you will call home and I will most likely never see. Throw away.
Photos in frames are switched out. A tiny you and me on our wedding day for my new dog in the backyard of my new place. Our trip out west for my trip out east. This frame I'll keep empty.
Back in my bed our bed your old bed, I am watching the blades of the ceiling fan whirl. If I move my eyes quickly to the left and the right, I can- for a brief moment- see each blade clearly. I can even see the lines of dust and the cracks in the paint. I make myself look for longer than I want to.
And my mind goes back and back and back to-freeze- when we were getting to know one another. Banking the memories for the un-knowing. Tying the knots and making patterns of our messiness. To this moment here, when everything I said was funny and everything you did was endearing. And here, when we drank in each other's lives and our bellies felt full and we had visions of being old. At the same time. At the same place.
I unwind slowly at times. Quickly at others. I skip over some of the knots and leave them there. But, here. Here is the thread loose and ready to be wound up with another's. I give it back to you.