Dear Room (and life) of my Own,
In just two days I will walk out of the front door of this apartment. I will take one last tour through, glancing at walls and floors and windows, and I will toss the keys into the box, get into a car and drive away. That will be the last time. And I’m pretty sure there will there be hot salt water burning my eyes in the departure, a terrible beautiful grief, lying on the hard wood floor one last time before my leaving.
Is that why Lot’s wife was turned to salt? Because the tears were too many as she looked back in the leaving? And still, she did. Still, I will. And what was her name do you think? (why didn’t she get her name in the story?) Let’s call her Ache. Call her Want. Call her She of the ripped memory. She who had to shapeshift and find new form in order to make it through into the other side of whatever is between the in-between.
So I’m here now, sitting in a half packed kitchen, hastily writing out words on scraps of yellow legal pad paper, calling out her nameless name. I am going to leave. And before that, I want to say good-bye.
You can’t go back, is the thing. You can’t really return. But in the movement away, sometimes, if you are lucky, there is remembering, as if understanding something essential in what was inside all those years when you were just busy in the living. To see things backwards, the view of life as it is blurred in the happening, to see as if for the first time, which is to see one last time, in the leaving and letting go. How did so much life happen these past five years? How did I get so lucky? How did I not know that this was everything? (Stay awake. Remember this. How it too was its own happiness.)
This apartment was the first place I could truly say belonged to me. It was a room of my own. Here, my space was my own. My money was my own. My work was my own. My choices were my own. My heart and body and freedom all belonged to me. As did my life. And I remember the kind of quiet thrill of it, how I walked around the space and thought, I am home now.
It is here that I grieved and here that I breathed myself back to life. It is here that I learned the meaning of my name and learned that there was no one who was going to come rescue me. I was free.
It is here that I began writing again, and came to recognize my own voice. Where I learned that I can write whatever I want to write, and when I want to write, and in the ways I want to write. And inside of these words and all the late nights of writing in the kitchen with absinthe and smoky conversations with my muse in drag, I understood my life was my own. People sometimes say they gave themselves permission, but this was different. It was like understanding permission wasn’t even needed. Not even from myself. Because it implies there are rules and codes and you have to be granted access to resist or deny them and do different. And that was no longer required. I simply do as I do, no permission or explanation needed. Because my life was no longer paying back the one who had survived and allowed me to live. The debt had been paid, or perhaps it is more true to say, I was granted amnesty from and for my own survivor. And you are free to live your life. You are free to live your life. You are free to live your life.
So it is true to say, this was not just an apartment but a womb, and it is here I gave birth to myself, entering into a new life with scars still sliced across skin from the lives ridden on to arrive here and knowing it was worth it.
These walls have stories of my son growing up and older, and how we learned to find our own rhythm and ways. Where we had his first all-nighter, staying up until five in the morning, because he wanted to and because we could. Where he turned seven and then eight and now he is eleven and no longer round faced and wanting to hold hands, and when we started talking about moving he said, “I think we should keep a small apartment so there is more money to travel and go see things,” and I thought we belong together.
It is here that I bought the bed I had always wanted, and wrote on walls and had dance parties and fought the second round of cancer. It was here I sat collecting keys and designing ink for my skin, where I lost the need to know and found the freedom of trusting myself, where I wrote applications for a school that may the next incarnation of my work in this world. It was where I went to bed for an entire week, sick with a flu and infection that made even breathing and swallowing feel like insults, and how after seven days, I woke up, and I was simply better. In every sense of the word. Somehow, while I was sick and recovering in bed, spring had come, and when I walked outside it was warm, and I didn’t hurt anymore, and I knew then I was going to be ok. So I could say that it was here, in your shelter, that I remembered and returned to the lilacs. It was here I learned how it is possible, this dying into life.
This is home where I lost people I didn’t know how to live without, and where I made maps underneath my bed to open to the dream portals. This was the home of intimacy and hours spent staring out the window knowing nothing is wasted. Of late night conversations on the fire escape with my alley cat, and learning to stand still and solid, to take up space, to occupy my own skin and stories and legion jungle heart. It is where I made sanctuary and where I harnessed weapons. It is where I fell in love and where I found my own nature. Where I once confused violence with love because sometimes things feel familiar and familiar can feel like home. But that doesn’t mean it ever feels good. And it was here I learned in the living of things, what it is to lose something of myself, and what it is to walk away from what will only ever hurt, knowing I will not choose that for myself again. Love is love now, and I learned that here. And it was here where I sat and read her words to me, written and sent from New York after Boston. I am so in love with you. And I knew that this is what I was meant for, this is the love I choose.
This is the home where I finally had all of me.
The first night I moved in here, I remember the mess of it, how there were boxes everywhere and I was tired and overwhelmed. And my son had come home, and fell asleep on my bed which didn’t even have sheets on it yet, just the protection of soft down. This was it, our new home, the place and life I was creating for us. Small and foreign and the perfect fit. It was so cold, snowing and bitter ice, and after he fell asleep, I remember walking out on the fire escape, watching snow fall, and crying into the lamp lit night. Everything still hurt. And yet I knew in every part of me, that this is what I had always wanted. And it was mine now.
Thank you for this. For this moment. For this home. For this life. For that night, when I held the keys in my hand and knew this was the beginning of everything that comes after.
And now is the beginning of after. . .
There is another apartment waiting for us. And it is not just space either. It is a home, and it is the completion and the beginning of something that started long before I knew I would one day be standing here, waiting to turn in keys to that which was the first room and life of my own. I am moving in two days. And it is to an apartment, that is a home, that is love. Love found, and chosen, and created, every day. Love as a living thing.
It doesn’t have to look like what you were told you should want, or what someone else may want, or what you think you need to want to have the love you want. And so here we are, finding the way to Frida’s house, creating a love and a home that will hold the complexity of meeting and loving after the fall.
There is space welcoming me to begin what comes next in my life. There is space for writing the words that are waiting, and for staring out a new window, this one that can see to the city skyline, the romance of my longest love. There is space for really hot baths, and the stone’s throw to the el tracks, and the water which is a good place to leave things and find what you didn’t even know you needed. And I will be here, I will make a life here. Separate and connected, walking the bridge back and forth, which is two doors and a fire escape. Meeting and being met, here and there and in the middle between.
And to think of this, to know this as possible, is to cry the salt water of Lot’s wife, this time in a different direction. For the feeling of looking back, the ripped alive grief of it, of how tremendous it was to have been here for the living of all this life, is the same feeling of utter wonder at getting to be fully awake for this moment and crossing over.
Good-byes are so hard. But I want to try anyway.
Thank you, for being my landing place these past five years. For being my welcome home, the setting out that was the return. And as I pack my things, I return that I might stretch forward.
I am leaving this space. But I am taking me with me. Into a new home. The bridge. Her. Life.
I shall leave a handful of salt at your door, and walk into that which already has my name inscribed upon her skin.