I get up at 2 am to get ready to leave the house for the last time. Caffeinate. Take a shower. Turn the hot water heater to away setting, throw away the shower curtains and the last threadbare bath towel.
I make sure every window is shut and locked. That every light is turned off.
And then I wait. Check my work. Wait. Check my work. No matter how many times I check, I half-expect to find something wrong, even so. Living alone in a house for two months has made me painfully aware of my own limitations, my own imperfections. When things go wrong, I can’t attribute it to anyone else.
But I don’t find any mistakes.
When the cab comes at 4:30 am, I step outside and say aloud, “Thank you, house, and goodbye.” As I get into the cab, it occurs to me that I just Marie Kondoed an entire house. One that had taken care of me for 10 years. During one of the most transformative periods of my life.
The feeling that hits me then is so intense that I fight back tears (of sadness? of relief?) as the cabbie engages me in small talk.
Justin is waiting for me in baggage claim when I get off the plane in Dallas. I don’t even know I’m running the last few steps towards him until I hear him laughing.
I ask him questions about announcements I heard at my gate when waiting in Cleveland. “Why do they ask people to recheck? What’s that all about? I tried to Google it, and nothing came up.”
And he explains. As he does, I’m so happy that I can not only hear his voice but see his face moving in real time. Not simulated real time with technology. Not on an infinitesimal video lag that I’m not supposed to know about but can’t seem to forget, beamed up to space and back.
And better yet, I can touch him.
Wow, I Don’t Have to Do Everything On My Own Anymore
We chat for a while. My bag finally arrives. We walk back to the car. As I sit down, he hands me a mango Diet Coke, my favorite soda at the moment. He tells me that he knows how dehydrated I always get when I fly (since I don’t want to risk having to use the bathroom on the plane). I start to cry.
It takes me a second to stop crying, let alone explain why it happened. But I do my best. Living on my own the past few months has changed my expectations in a deeper way than I’d expected. I’m used to fending for myself now. To understanding that if I want a soda, I have to make sure I get it. Bring it myself.
I’m used to expecting that no one’s going to show up and help me out.
I recount times when this reality was harrowing. When I had to get up on a stepstool to change the garage code for the realtor and new owners, it occurred to me that if I fell and cracked my head open that I was kind of screwed. No one would find me. That I had no firm plans to see or talk to anyone for days. By the time people wondered what had happened to me, it would be over.
“Well,” I’d literally said aloud then, laughing morbidly. “Better not fall.”
I explain that the moment he handed me that soda, he gave me the strongest signal that that’s not the case anymore. I’m part of a family again. Someone is expecting me. I have backup. And not just backup but the best backup in the world, someone who has lived with me for nearly a decade and understands me better than anyone else ever has.
As I drink that mango Diet Coke on the drive to our new place, it occurs to me that I am home.