…..but what is it called when your heart is elsewhere?
I told my two teenage boys as we were hefting large items up three flights of steps to my new dwelling that I never considered a structure a home. For me home was where the things I cared about were. It was where ever they are, it was where ever she was. I grew up never feeling comfortable in my own home, like I didn’t fit into the family I was placed. I felt like an outsider looking in, honestly, I always felt that I was adopted. It wasn’t until I had her that I was able to start to feel at peace within a structure that to many having those four walls made them feel safe and at “home”. When I was around them we could be outside, in a crowd, in the woods, or even in the car and I felt like I was home. When she left a little piece of that feeling went away, as many will say, a piece of me was now missing and a piece of my “home” was now missing. That being said I had my boys, I had the noise they brought, the clicking of a video game controller late at night, the faint whisper of music playing, a giggle once in a while when one of them would see a funny meme or read a corny joke. I slept at night because of those noises. I could excuse the missing piece because of the energy they brought into the house that provided us shelter.
The apartment is on the third floor of a house. As you walk in the front door there is a landing area with a window looking over the busy street below. The wooden flooring is covered by a small rug with old wooden chairs set up around it for guests to take their shoes off and a coat rake for their jackets. As you turn to the left there is a set of stairs that leads up into the actual living space of the newly renovated two bedroom apartment. The top of the stairs has a single board that squeaks and squeals as it succumbs to the weight of its abuser. The iron railing allows the light from the multiple windows and skylights to light up the stairway making so that there is rarely a need for the long oval overhead light. There is a smaller living room that barely fits a futon and a single chair, in the corner grows the cat tree so the roommates can perch themselves on the high windows. The kitchen is new and designed well to fit into the small space it occupies with plenty of cabinet space for all of one’s many cooking needs. Off the kitchen is a smaller bedroom with two mattresses reminiscent of a homeless shelter as the boys don’t want their bunk beds set up providing more space (they are too old for bunk beds, though I would kill to move them into my room). On the opposite side of the living room is a large master bedroom with two big closets and two large windows that spy on the neighbors across the street. As you walk back through the kitchen there is a large glass door, when you open the door there is a large 3rd floor, private deck. Yes, it has a rooftop deck that is just mine. The view is of the city and the sunsets. This apartment, the deck, and the location which is 5 minutes to the downtown anything via walking, yet quiet enough to not feel downtown, just reeks of perfection.
I am not the typical bachelor I suppose. I don’t take in the sights at the local strip club, I do not spend my days hitting up bars or flirting with the pretty girls that walk the streets (not hookers, they are just walking), I walk up the three flights every day, shut my door and work on an art project, or I write, or I just sit here twisted and mangled trying to find comfort on a couch that isn’t all that comfortable unless it is pulled out into a bed (not that I have even done that). I have walked through the town and observed the locals greeting each other, shaking hands and kissing cheeks and want that. It would be nice to be noticed but at the same time it would go against my internally driven social experiment to find out if one is more anonymous in the city or the country, maybe more to come on that. Where do I head with the feeling of wanting to be out there, knowing people, wishing one day someone would say “oh my god, you have got to meet this friend of mine. You two would be perfect together!” Or to have someone that would just text and say they were heading to a local bar for a drink and not necessarily ask but tell me to meet them there. Have I finally become the quiet, socially inept and awkward people I grew up idolizing? Did I even mean to do it or did it just happen through attrition? As I write this I recognize that this sounds like a depressive person and having gone through a lot of that over the past few years I feel that I would recognize it. I don’t feel that way but I also don’t feel it necessary to go pursue social interactions anymore, as I once did. This is obviously a terrible way to date.
This apartment feels like four walls, a floor, and a ceiling. That is it. I have hung art work, set up my record player, arranged and rearranged the furniture hoping to find a feeling that I have yet to find. This is a place I leave from to go to the new job, it is a place I return to at the end of the day, it is not my home. Ruling out the possibility that it one day could become that, is foolish and I recognize that but there is still something missing. The snarky comments of a teenager, the metal music blaring out of a bedroom, the swearing (well I may cover that one) and the frustration of trying to get two teenage boys to move at a pace other than “meh”. I love it, I love it all. Going into their bedrooms and saying “Goodnight, I love you, I will see you in the morning” each night since they were born. Now it is via text, and I do say I will see them in the morning, maybe not as much to comfort them but to comfort me. I have tried harder than with any other place to make this a home knowing what I was entering and yet my heart resists. My head says that I am safe but my heart feels in danger. I love this apartment, it is a great pile of sticks, but there is nothing like the sound of screeching, burning flesh as they grip the hand rail as hard as they can and run down the stairs in the morning (to this day I don’t know why they do that but it is hilarious). Twice a month I get to feel at home in my home, those three days are going to be perfect, I will love this city, I will be comforted by the sounds, and I will have my banter back. For those that do not enjoy the ingenious arguments that a teenager can come up with, record them, wait until you aren’t frustrated and listen to them again, it is amazing how they can spin a tale to avoid the most mundane of circumstances.
This experience may be the next chapter in my newly forced upon personal growth. I do not ask why anymore, there is no point. It is just time to live with what I have. I spoke to their friends some of whom have parents living in other states to see what they think of it and they say it is fine. This seems to be the new norm for a lot of teenagers who have had split families for so long that is all they know. For me it feels like when there is a spider on you and you swat it off, and then you spend the rest of the night itchy and obsessed that there are more spiders on you. Those signs in your grandmothers kitchen, the ones that were knitted or macramé that read “Home is where the heart is” for me is is also true it is just that my definition of home was different than most.
******I wasn’t sure about the timing of writing this piece. With so many people put out by the storms hitting Florida and Texas I was going to wait. It just kept jumping into the front of my mind. My friend recently lost her home, all of it, in Florida. Materially, that is devastating, I really feel for all that she has been through. A last moment change of plans though had her husband leave that home that he was going to see the storm through in while she was safely elsewhere and head up to her. I hope they one day after the shock wears off, recognize that he left because their home is only a house if the ones they love are not there with them. My best wishes are to all of those that went through these past storms and lost their houses it is truly a terrible thing.