After the washer and drier have been hoisted up three flights of narrow stairs, the couch and armoire and every other heavy piece of furniture I own lugged up after them, after the countless over-packed boxes of books, kitchen gadgets, clothing, desk junk, CDs and DVDs, and every other manner of minutiae clogging my life have been tossed into their respective rooms to be opened and sorted, after all the good, kind people who have squeezed my shoulder, offered hugs, listened while I struggled through this have gone, after Mom and Casey––who traveled all this way to lend their support and muscle, to be here for me when I needed them most, enduring the snow and the cold and the treacherous roads––have climbed into their rented Jeep and driven away, leaving me once again alone in a parking lot watching them turn the corner and slip from view, what do I do?
I stood a long time in the parking lot yesterday, the near-constant drip of melting ice and snow playing like a percussive symphony all around me. I remembered that afternoon in Lake Forest seventeen years ago, after the three of us had driven across the country to deliver me to the college of my choosing. After unpacking my room and meeting my roommate they gave me my hugs, tried their hardest to hide their tears and then climbed into the car and drove away, leaving me to build an entire life from nothing. This time, though, things were different; I had a life of my own, but as I climbed those thirty-seven stairs and came into my apartment, the sun sitting on the downward side of its westerly travels, its light spraying my office and living room in deep gold, I couldn't seem to remember exactly what it was and I didn't know exactly what to do with it.
What do you do when everything you know and love seems so far away, when the objects you've surrounded yourself with seem like empty relics and you can't quite remember what they meant or why? I stood for a long time––an hour maybe––trying to remember who I was and what I was supposed to do, feeling more than seeing the sun sink below the jagged line of the mountains, casting my small corner of the world into cool, blue shadow.
It took a long time, working through the numb and then the anger and sadness, but eventually I remembered. At least one little part of it.
I did what I always do. I walked with my best friend, let him lead me across the street to the park where he entertained me with rolls through the snow, snorting and cavorting as though everything would somehow, in some nearly inconceivable way be alright again. If not now, soon.
And when Duncan and I returned to this new home, I dug through boxes until I found the first piece of this new life puzzle––a Christmas gift from my mother––and I hung it on the wall in the door exactly where it belongs.
And somehow it made things a little better.