Return to the House Where Love Died

1825 n washtenawI just left the house where love died.  I can’t take credit for that line.  My friend Jonathan came up with it to describe the place where his relationship fell apart.  But I borrow it, because it is apt.

It’s the condominium my ex and I purchased together in 2007 when we moved to Chicago for his residency.  We still own it jointly, but I am not responsible for it in any way.

Our tenants are moving out, and I offered to do the final walk through before the next ones move in.

I never wanted to buy it.  Home ownership was never my dream.  I liked the idea of freedom.  To change neighborhoods.  To upgrade or downsize, as needed.  To leave paint and snow and water heaters to someone other than me.  But Lee thought it was an investment, an opportunity to step into the real estate market, something we couldn’t do in California.  And I went along with it.

When we are no longer under water, we will sell it.  Lee will pay himself back for any financial losses and we will split anything that remains.  I am expecting nothing.

The tenants have already moved out.  They’ve scrubbed it with organic cleaners they make themselves.  It is immaculate.  They are wonderful tenants.  We have been lucky.

I look at the floors.  I forgot how rich the walnut is.  That the kitchen is big enough for two to dance in.  How excited I was to have new appliances, cherry cabinets and granite countertops.  A bathroom with a pedestal sink and good water pressure.

The curtain hooks and rods we left are still up .  As is the full-length mirror in the second bedroom.  The shoerack.  And a piece of fabric I used to cover the master bedroom window that faces a brick wall.  I made a hem using an iron and tape I bought at Poppy Fabric.   I brought it from California.  I loved the pattern.  I forgot it is here.

There is a built-in wine rack next to the dishwasher.  I had big plans for it.  Ironically, I stopped drinking not long after we moved to Chicago.  I kept rolled up cloth napkins and tablecloths in the slots instead.

There are pin size holes in the wall where we hung a spice rack.  A nail drilled into the exposed brick where I hung the Napa Valley Mustard Festival poster.  I bought it my first year in San Francisco, years before I met Lee.

I remember arriving here on a steamy, grey July day.  Putting the keys we received via FedEx in the door and the relief we felt when it opened.  We slept in sleeping bags on the floor until our truck arrived later in the week.

I thought about Passover Seders – sitting on the floor, on pillows – sometimes more than a dozen of us, recounting the story of the Israelites liberation from bondage.  I thought about parties we had, cramming 50 or more of my coffee-swilling comrades into the 800 or so square feet.

I thought about the day we left Chicago for Seattle.  The movers had come.  The condominium was empty.  We stayed the night at my friend Pam’s.  She made us egg and cheese sandwiches for dinner and we watched her daughters perform an interpretive dance to Simon and Garfunkel – the oldest, a little bit flirty with my then-husband.

We came back to get the cats.  To put the pod on the roof, load up the car and go.  The pod didn’t fit.  Lee had to jerry rig it and hope for the best.  When we were packed, I went back inside a final time.

I walked to the back office – the only room where the sun streamed in.  It created a rainbow pattern on the dark, wood floor.  I got down on my knees.

I thanked God for this home.  For my time in Chicago.  For my friends.

I thanked God that I was sober.  For all that I got from this place I didn’t think I wanted to be.  In a home I never wanted to buy.  I knew I had been exactly where I was supposed to be.  And now I was leaving.

I wept.

Nine days prior Lee told me I didn’t have to come to Seattle.  That he had taken me from my home once before.  That he didn’t want to do it again if I wasn’t willing.  But it was too late to turn around.  It was easier to go than to not go.

And so I went.  Because it was easier.  Because, I believed, that’s what married people do.  Because I wasn’t quite done.

I thought I would feel more emotional being at the house.  That I might feel more sadness.  More anger.  Wistful.  But I didn’t.  I watched the memories as I would a current-events film loop in the third grade – the kind that was no longer current by the time it arrived.

Our tenant showed me photos of the home he and his girlfriend just bought, not far away.  The kitchen, the bath – not unlike ours.  The walls he painted – turquoise and slate.  He seemed proud. Hopeful.

He offered to hand over the keys to the next tenants.  I gratefully accepted.

He is done here.  Me too.

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