I sometimes wish I could approach the seven year old version of myself, calmly place my hands on both of her arms (as to not cause alarm from a strange woman coming up to her randomly), and then proceed to just shake the ever-loving shit out of her until she stopped wanting to grow up and become a “Novelist.”
Like I even understood what the difference between “novel” and “book” was at the time.
I’m at a point in my life, however, where this doesn’t feel like an option. Writing has given me numerous advantages in this life, mostly in terms of communication style and my ability to articulate thoughts and emotions. The advantages of writing compel me to consistently encourage others to write. It’s good to write.
But to be a “writer”?
Nothing is ever simple. I can’t simply see a red light signal dangling from it’s connection without pondering if the light is a metaphor for my stance of my own addictive behaviors. A crack in the sidewalk becomes the divorce of my parents. Seeing someone at the movie theatre purchase popcorn and say, “You know? Maybe I’ll get a medium instead of the small” morphs itself into my innate fear of my eating disorder coming back and finding a comfortable host again.
Everything is symbolic. Everything has meaning. Even though ultimately, nothing does.
But not for a writer. Not for me. Everything just has to mean something and ultimately it is this same needless attention to details that causes those things to matter. When they could have just been events.
It’s just a red light. It’s just a changed order. It’s just a crack in the sidewalk.
It was just a house.
Certain things are harder for me to write about and I know they will be ahead of time. I knew going into discussing my experiences in therapy that it wasn’t gonna be a walk in the park. I know that when I finally tell the story of my sexual assault that it will be the hardest post to write. But just like a wound that causes more blood than actually physical discomfort, you sometimes don’t realize how hurt you feel about something. That is, until you look down and realize how much you are actually bleeding.
“The house will be boxed up by the 15th. Is there anything you can think of that you want out of the house? The city of Westerville bought it and they’re going to tear it down.”
I received this text from my father earlier this month.
If you have read my other blogs detailing the events leading to my parents divorce this probably shouldn’t come off as a surprise. And honestly, I shouldn’t be surprised. It’s completely normal to get a divorce and then move after all of the kids have left the nest.
“The city of Westerville bought it and they’re going to tear it down.”
When I moved into the home that has recently been vacated in fifth grade, I was ecstatic. We had moved from a horrible apartment within inner-city Columbus to a suburban three-bedroom home with a yard that was on the main street (It’s literally called Main Street in some parts) of the town. I had my own bedroom for the first time ever. There was a porch I could sit and read on. I could walk to school.
My earliest memory in that house was when I was alone in my bedroom and took a sharpie and wrote “boob” on my bedroom wall. I chuckled as I did it and then went to wipe the writing away. No dice. The ink stuck the wall permanently and to my horror any cleaning agents used to erase the writing in fact made it worse, smearing the word into a purplish ghost inside my wall that was more or less wearing a shirt with “boob” on the front.
My HILARIOUS joke to myself had turned to a nightmare. I realized that there would be no way to fix this, my parents would know and at the end of the day I would have to look an adult person in the face and say, “I’m sorry I wrote ‘boob’ on the wall. I don’t know why I did that and it was pretty irresponsible.”
I always imagined the remedy would be a fresh coat of paint purchased a la the landlord, maybe a layer of cheap wallpaper, or a stronger cleaning agent than the Windex I found in the bathroom cabinet. I never for a moment considered that the remedy would be destroying the wall itself.
It was always an old house.
During my senior year of high school I remember fearing that my family would be evicted due to maintenance issues. There was mold literally everywhere. There was a hole in my kitchen ceiling from water damage from the bathroom upstairs. By “water damage” I mean my father filling up the bathtub so much that the water pooled into the floor and then burst a hole in the kitchen downstairs like something out of Home Alone 3. The wooden floorboards of the above bathroom were always exposed. My bedroom window didn’t have one of the window panes so I used duct tape for almost five years (not at all a problem for Ohio temperatures). It smelled exactly like what you would imagine this house would smell like but also don’t forget to add the fact that people were smoking cigarettes and weed in there on the daily surrounded by 3 cats and a dog.
The house had major shortcomings and as i have said before, I was thrilled to leave that house that I never felt was a home.
With each visit to that house I felt myself breaking up with it more and more. It always felt like each time I opened the door I had tripped a countdown in the sky that decreased by one. And I’ve even mentioned that it felt like the last time I would be there the last time I visited.
I was right.
It’s strange to mourn for something you loathed. I’ve never felt this way but I guess in my mind I had imagined someday going back, looking at the house from the sidewalk and remembering the moments that took place inside. Those moments that made me who I am. Made my family who they are.
You can’t do that when you’re staring at a law office or a Jamba Juice. I mean, you could try, but you may get a tad distracted.
If I ever have kids I won’t be able to take them to that house and point out the window that was definitely repaired by someone afterward. I can’t show them the backyard that would have a new fence put in, would have a graveled drive way at that point. I can’t indicate the repainted porch that I spent hours of my adolescence searching for answers on. It will simply be land. Land that has felt the scar of time and progress moving forward, a wound that affects every area of our neighborhoods and cities inevitably.
This is why you should never be a writer. That house isn’t being torn down at the end of the month. My childhood is. The family that lived there has been demolished and now the house will be too.
That’s how it feels lately. I know things are both more and less simple than how they usually seem.
A friend of mine from childhood had some words of successful comfort. She explained that while I may not be able to ever go back there, there is something nice about the fact that my family was the last family there.
And of course when she said “nice” my bullshit broken-ass brain heard “poetic”.
Years from now I may be pointing to a Jamba Juice but at least when I do so I’ll say,
“You know, before all of this there was a family that lived here. Their love language was screaming and denial but they were there for 14 years. They’re all over the country now but that story all ended right in front of you. Right here.”
With being a writer comes a dissatisfaction from unfinished endings. And while I find the poetic nature of my childhood home being demolished uncomfortable, at least the story that the house contained is over. And even though its easy to feel like it is erased, that isn’t the truth at all.
Because I’m a writer.