I pull the heavy wooden outer door shut, then the cage door, then punch the button. The elevator descends. I've enacted this ritual countless times, but the feeling now is different. I'm constantly aware that this is one of the last times I will ride this elevator, walk these halls, descend these stairs. This has been my home, and soon it won't be.
I'm moving. I've bought a house, and if all goes according to schedule, all the major items will find their way to the new dwelling by the end of this weekend. The rent at this apartment has been paid until the end of the month, so there is still plenty of time to move the smaller stuff, the books and CDs and silverware, all the bits and pieces that I will need in time. And there will be time to linger.
This apartment was never meant to be a permanent home. It was the first place I could call my own after I split with my wife, after months and months of living with family members. I moved in here mostly because it was cheap, I liked the neighborhood and the landlord allowed cats. I refused to sign a twelve month lease, because I assumed I wouldn't be here that long. This was just a place for me to clear my head, get my bearings, figure out my next step. There was no intention of making this apartment, or this city, my regular address.
But momentum slowed. I intended to put money away for my eventual move to someplace, anyplace else. But I started dating again, and that can be terribly spendy, and there were car issues, and an expensive DVD habit. I was never out of money, but I never had enough to comfortably strike out to a new location, to have something in reserve.
So I stayed. And this apartment became the sight of some mild debauchery--I'll spare you the details--and my home base as I eased my way back into the land of the living. It's also where I lived when my divorce became final, where I heard my mom had died, and where I realized I was still capable of falling in love. I've cried here, and I've laughed here.
But it's just a place, right? I know that, intellectually, but...I get too attached to things, graft sentimental meaning onto inanimate objects and empty rooms. As I pack, it becomes impossible to decide what to toss and what to keep. Familiar shadows haunt every corner. In a kitchen drawer I found a ticket stub for Talladega Nights, the first movie Tabbatha and I saw together. I have no idea why I kept it, but there it was, a tactile reminder of something that almost was. Is there any meaning to this? Does it matter that I fell in love with her? Does it matter that it ended? Is the memory more important or...or...Crap.
See, this is what I mean. The intention was to keep this little essay a little more focused, but I've wandered into the cul-de-sac of wistful memory. It's the same way with the move. I know what needs to be done, I need to stay focused, but there's a part of me that just wants to stay awhile, surrounded by these walls I know so well.