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Read them at The Stranger Looks Back.

This Old House

We moved here in the spring of '99. It was to be a new start, as though leaving the city would leave the city behind. We looked at more than two dozen house and bought the first one we saw. We hated it, but it was near there. As though that would somehow make it better. It didn't.

We did what we could to pretend to like it. Got rid of that old carpeting. Most of it, anyway. Helped the remaining vintage 70's faux-bricks join their already-fallen comrades. Replaced them with tiles that came from Italy, because the ones made here just wouldn't do. So said the tilestore lady. Finished the basement built for men with big trucks. Never understood why the moron who had renovated the place didn't add a few inches when he had the chance. After all, he drove a Civic.

Then there was the balcony. I had used that contractor before, there, and he had done good work at a fair price. We didn't want to take the time to shop around. Big mistake. Too long, too much, not quite right. We got so used to coming in through the garage we never stopped doing it. I lost the only key to the front door years before I noticed.

We did what we could to pretend to like it. After all, we would only be here for a few years, five at the most, before we would be there. Right.

Maybe it was the ghosts. The tall man with the little basement breathed his last that first summer, as though there was no escape from here in this life. The man before him spent his last heartbeat making a snow angel, shovel by his side.  Maybe there were others. Yeah, it must have been the ghosts. It couldn't be us. After all, we left all that behind, in the city.

We like to believe that we can change our lives by changing our circumstances, our surroundings, our activities. Because those things are easy. Changing our selves is not. Before we can change something, we have to accept it. Aye, there's the rub.

We came here to get there. It really was the only thing about this old house that we really did like. Had we gotten there, would it have made a difference? I think so. Not because simply being there would have somehow changed us. Because to get there we would have had to change our selves first. We didn't. Blame it on the ghosts, but which ones?

The Italian tiles are holding up as well as the lady said they would. The floating floor too. The basement is still too short, but it doesn't matter. Nobody stands up down there. And the balcony is the balcony. I tell the kids to go up and wait for me to open the door while I enter through the garage. I don't know why. Maybe it's the symbol of the failure of this place, of my failure, and I don't want to share that with anybody.

She left this old house, taking her self with her, looking for that change that will change her. She's starting to find it, now that she's looking in the right place. She doesn't blame me anymore for everything that went wrong. I wish she did. I'd rather be responsible for her failed dreams than mine.

I'm still here. I avoid going there like the plague. I do it only when I really have no choice, and even then sometimes not. It reminds me too much of what could have been, what isn't, and what will probably never be. When I do go, I look at that picture, the one of those ghosts, the good ones, the ones that gave me all the possibilities I've squandered, and I say "I'm sorry." Sorry I let their there fall apart the way it has. Sorrier for the failures that represents. Sorrier to myself.

I'm still here. Three words. Three words that represent my failure. I look at them again, read them again, and wonder if they might have some other meaning. Then I see.

I'm still here.
 

10 comments:

Stephanie said...

That was beautiful and haunting and unfortunately/fortunately had me feeling my own 'i'm still here' emotions.
keep it coming.

just a brown-eyed girl said...

Legacy...you've a friend in me, permanently. Of that, for whatever that is worth, you can count on.

#1Nana said...

I don't get it yet. Will it all become clear three posts from now?

Carolyn said...

I couldn't have said it better than Stephanie. I got a bit choked up just reading this, you have a way with words legacy, please continue to bless us with them!

Kate said...

I know this, in some way. It's beautiful and painful.

Kate Mohler said...

Very sad in tone! I hope happier days are near.

the wid0w said...

well nowadays my eyes are usually half closed and unfocused (or wait is it me or the eyes thats unfocused?) either way iv generally got the attention span of a gnat .. this however keeps me enthralled as its echoes reverberate through my numbed scull

Multi-Ainjo said...

I have felt this so often in my life. I'm always looking for something else. For me it's radical to enjoy the now.

Beautiful writing. Simply amazing.

K Marie said...

You are an incredible writer and I enjoyed reading this as I do all of your posts. Thanks for bringing this to my attention the other day. I did bring it home to show him and it sat on the table next to him. I asked if he read it and he said, "yes" but I didn't see him pick it up once...actually I didn't see him look up from the computer once either. :(

emerald said...

I shed a tear for your pain, there are no failures love, only lessons to be learned.