As the Uber pulls up, around the corner, a familiar sense of dread floods me. It feels like a combination of nausea, shortness of breath, total stress on every joint and ligament in my body, almost as if the Uber itself, wants to keep me enveloped within, before I step out of it, before I step into what I’m calling home for the time being. It’s been bad this week. But, let’s be real. I mean, as my writing teachers say, memoir is about Truth, right? And if we’re being honest, and Truthful, I feel like it’s been bad these past few years. I tell the driver thank you, hand him a few bucks. He offers to give to return it to me, saying no thank you, I reassure him, reminding him, per our previous in the car conversation, that I’ve worked this hustle before, I know how it is, and to please have a cup of coffee or gallon of gas on me.
I get out of the Uber and turn the corner. I can already hear them yelling. My mom yelling at my sister for getting another parking ticket. Her indignation, her tone, her frustration, a reverse siren call, to stay the fuck away. But up I go the first flight of stairs. My sister, yelling back, telling my mom that no, it wasn’t her fault because she didn’t see the sign, so it shouldn’t matter, cops are assholes. This is something I’ve heard and even said myself before. Up the next flight of stairs. These are the same arguments that occur between my mom and Dorian over and over and over again, grinding away like an old broken victrola still trying to find its sound. I have been hearing this sound for 32 years.
A familiar mantra I tell myself, to get through these moments, is that once I go full time at work, I’ll be able to start saving, and finally get out of here. I just have to keep in mind why I’m moving. I have to remember. I always have to remember. Keep moving forward. Keep moving. Move. I tell myself: This is a list of things I will not miss when I move.
I will not miss being greeted at the door with three different voices all simultaneously asking for the same thing -- my mother grumbling about how my 35 year old woman's room is not clean, my sister, about how she really will need her car this weekend even though I've already reminded her that I won't need it because Uber exists, and the howl of my dog reminding me that I've not been home for hours, and who the fuck am I to leave him for so long.
I will not miss being the tech-support who is on call 24/7, who needs to explain to my family what it's like to have access to your Google Drive all over the world, and why on earth would I need to access my documents anywhere in the world when I have a flash drive instead? I will also not miss the blank stare I get when asked why I don't need to purchase Office 2016.
I will not miss our tight quarters, all the sounds and lights of the televisions blaring simultaneously, my introvert’s nightmare.
I will not miss picking up dog poop at 4pm and 7pm everyday.
But… I will miss the dog. The little eighteen pound ball of muscle and fluff and barks and howls and ankle taps and wagging tail thumps that are nothing but love and greetings and pure euphoria. Our glue. Our emulsifier. Our strongest thread.
And then the victrola stops screeching. The sun starts to do its nightly Bob Ross impression, that we get a front row seat for every evening, and along with the light, in the span of about 45 minutes, evaporates all of my dread and anxiety about being home, and the buzzing of the nightly news starts, and like Vonnegut says, everything is beautiful and nothing hurts. And I realize that even more than shit I won’t miss, there’s a whole lot that I will. And then I remember my next mantra. When I move, I will miss it all.
When I move, I will miss the sounds Mom makes in the morning, when she lifts herself up off the ground, stomach to knees, elbows behind her head. Huff "one", huff "two", "huff", three. Some people wake up to the chime beep bop boop BUZZ of an alarm clock. I wake up to the dulcet tones of her doing what she does best -- making the most with what she’s got. Keeping everything in tip top shape. Even at the age of 72, she’s in better shape than most people I know.
When I move, I will miss the floods of scent that accost me. I know what kind of evening (or morning) it's going to be as soon as I cross the threshold. Sometimes it's Oliver's urine dotted all over the apartment, after a string of blazing hot 100+ degree days, no air conditioning to keep everything on an even keel. This is going to be a tough night. Other times, it's a sweet waft of tuberoses, just like the ones I bought my mother by accident instead of sterling roses, when I was eight, in an effort to make sure, even at my smallest age, that I knew her, that I wanted to connect, that I wanted to please. This is going to be a lovely afternoon. The best days are when I open the door and the smell of fajitas has been seducing me the moment I opened the car door in the driveway. I walk up the three small flights of stairs, huff huff huff, I fumble with the keys, and finally get the door open. The wall of deliciousness overpowers me. I consent. Our family home cooking is what I will miss the most. No one makes rice like you, Mommy. Yes, I've finally been brainwashed enough to agree with you. Yes to garlic, yes to peppers, yes to onions, yes to meat, yes to rice, yes to one more memorable meal with you.
When I move, I will miss witnessing the transition of this mostly distant roommate into my beautiful and vibrant sister Dorian, who always knows that my answer to “Do you want Susie Cakes” is “yes, and spice cake please”, and who has started to understand that the real answer to that question, is all the cake all the time. The Dorian who now is the one who takes *me* places and drops *me* off at work, or at school, or wherever I need to be. I will miss seeing the tail lights of her little black car, her little black pride and joy. The little hatchback that starts to vibrate as soon as she turns up her Guns and Roses, so loud, that I can hear it, even a half block away. I will miss knowing that she’s happy and excited, just by being able to hear the shrieking of Axl Rose from afar.
When I move, I will miss the glorious sight of mom sitting on her new throne, her chaise lounge that she has always wanted, drinking her white wine spritzer, the one I've given her so much shit about, and have told her that she can't order in person, because it's too embarrassing for me to be around, but the very one that signals to me that it's going to be a wonderful night. The light dancing across her face as she smiles her widest inebriated smile.
I look for my poison in the kitchen, some of the bottles covered in dust, some of the other bottles covered in frost. Dirty cocktail shaker in the sink. I find my favorite, my beautiful bourbon, and I watch it drip like super thin honey washing over the single ice cube, that I now need to accompany it with. So cold in my hand. I walk the few feet to our couch, and I see the shadows across my mom’s face from the light having changed, assuring me that it's late enough to start drinking. Her smile again, and away we go.
When I move, what I will miss the most, is the feeling of finally *feeling* home. I will miss the texture of our twenty year old carpet on my feet. The very one that I have vomited, fucked, cried, laughed, and have healed on. I will miss the softness of my mother’s beautiful face next to mine as she comes into my bedroom every morning and each night, and kissing me sweetly good day and good evening. I will miss the slippery tile in the “big bathroom” although it's the smaller one, but it's the one that we all share, the one we've all learned to compromise with. I will miss the tender bruises on my knees from falling in that very tub so often.
I will miss the release of tension every twenty fucking minutes on my bed after our dog Oliver jumps off one Mommy Den, just to go to the other Mommy Den. And then the sound of him jumping off again, to go to his other, other mommy.
When I move, for the second time, I will keep within me, the beautiful tapestry of home that we have woven altogether, the one that took 36 years to build. And I will begin anew, hoping that you will visit me, often, in the next piece add to it.
This is something I'm reading tonight at my writing group -- the first time I'm ever reading aloud! Yay!