Sunday, October 29, 2006

The Move, Part Four: The Long Goodbye

I had thought it would be better to spread the move over several weeks. That way, I wouldn't wear myself out on any given day and could get the whole thing done with little trips after work and on weekends.

But I was wrong. Sweet flamin' Jeebus, was I wrong.

Instead of moving everything in one day and wearing myself (and all of the friends I would have needed to recruit) out just that once, I wound up being worn out every damn night.

Part of the overall problem was work-related. It's been getting busier and busier, and I've been leaving later and later. And who wants to haul boxes and bags and furnishings after a 12-hour shift? That's right: nobody. Much of the work was thus shifted to weekends, which meant that the time I would normally spend resting up for the coming workweek was spent lifting and carrying and dragging and shoving.

Another part of the problem was sheer volume. Even with everything I threw out or left behind (more on that in a moment), I carried enough over to the new place for three people, and I'm still unpacking (and likely will be well into the new year).

But even interminable moves must end, and so did this one.

It was a sunny Saturday afternoon. The only things remaining to be moved out were my bicycle (which I haven't been on in years, and which now sits unused in the basement of my new apartment building) and my helmet (which, should I ever ride my bicycle again, I'll definitely wear). Everything else that remained--books, DVDs, videotapes, kitchenware--was being left behind for my now-former landlords, a couple in the midst of an unpleasant divorce, to keep, throw out, sell, whatever. (Of course, my now-former landlord called me a few days later and asked, "Um, you've still got a lotta stuff here. I just wanted to know if you're renting for another month or what." Never mind that everything I left behind put together wouldn't have filled half of one closet; yep, that makes it worth renting for another month. Except...not.)

I rolled the bike into what had been the living room and parked there for a minute. The place looked strange with next to nothing in it. Sad. This had been a large part of my life. And I could still see it as it had been for so long:

Over in that corner sat the faded fuchsia recliner, left there by the previous tenant, where Lottie used to curl up for naps. By the windows sat the futon, sold to me by a then-friend, The Duranie at a steep discount as payment for watching her cats over the holidays. (She later dumped me as a friend without explanation--not the first time that's happened and, unfortunately, not the last.) Against the walls were the loveseats, bought at Ikea and drivel home for me by Mr. and Mrs. Fluffy, on which many a Halloween Movie Bash was enjoyed. In the middle sat the coffee table my brother made me as a present. On the walls, the shapes of the posters for The Blair Witch Project and The Exorcist were still visible, along with the holes where the nails had held them aloft.

All gone now.

I don't mean to oversentimentalize (is that even a word?) this whole experience. This was, after all, just my apartment. It wasn't perfect, by any means. The kitchen sink leaked, the ceiling was cracked, the bedroom windows were drafty, the linoleum in the kitchen was badly cracked, the wiring was ancient and both the front and back doors were a pain in the ass to open. But it was home for more than a decade. I can't just shrug that off.

And it's not like my new place is Nirvana, either. The toilet leaks at the base (I put way too much putty on it, which is how I repair everything that needs putty). The wainscoting doesn't always meet the floor, the hot water is really, really hot. There lots of spiders in in the building--I don't mind seeing one every once in a while, but I shouldn't wake up in the middle of the night to find one standing on the forehead of the Christopher Lee Dracula figure atop my TV, should I? And the boiler just beneath the living room floor not only keeps the pace toasty warm without any of the radiators on, but it roars either like a plane taking off or a nuclear explosion in the distance, depending on my mood at that moment.

But it's home now. This bare and desolate place wasn't anymore.

While I was taking that last, long look around, I thought I saw movement out of the corner of my eye. It wasn't the first time that had happened during the process of moving out, though this would certainly be the last time. I couldn't tell you what it was. Maybe it was the shadow of a tree branch waving in the breeze outside. Maybe a bird flew past the window. But in the corner of my eye, for that briefest of brief moments, it looked like Lottie coming around the corner from the kitchen as she had so many times--and as she should have many more.

I looked down at my watch. I'd been standing there for 15 minutes. Enough. Time to go.

I put the helmet on my head, rolled the bike out the front door (my now-former landlady was out back, and I didn't want to talk to her again if I didn't have to), and said "Bye, Lottie," trying to wrestle the door shut before the tears could get a chance to start flowing.

Then I turned, picked up the bike and walked it down the stairs, not looking back again. Not even a glance.