It’s Pride season again. The last Pride I went to, I was living in Vermont and after the parade, I broke up with a girl, even though we were barely dating. We watched the parade and then I took her out to our final meal together. We sat outside in the sun with the lake just down the street. I drank a beer and ordered mac and cheese. I don’t remember what she got. I don’t even remember what she was wearing or what I was talking about when it happened.
I think I was mentioning my new place, and how she would never see it. Maybe I was referring to the ugly brown carpeting, or the pasty off-white walls. I didn’t have enough of your paintings to cover them. I hung three in the living room, one in the bathroom, and two in the bedroom, but it still felt bare. That apartment in Vermont was never really right. None of that year in Vermont was ever right, no matter how hard I tried to make it. I couldn’t understand how you can go back to a place that’s your home – the place where you were born and raised – and after ten years away everything was unrecognizable. All my friends were different. They had babies and husband and new houses to live in. The buildings downtown had all changed, and the roads didn’t feel like mine anymore.
I like my new apartment in Florida better, even though it’s so small. It’s all one room, thesame size as the living room I had in Vermont. The walls are still white, but the tile is orange and blue here. It gives the space this spark. Your paintings all fit where I can see them. One of the wood frames is broken – it cracked apart at the crease in one corner – and I haven’t figured out how to fix it. I don’t have the tools. I left everything in Vermont except three suitcases, and even though I’ve been here for almost five months now, I keep expecting to have my old stuff. I keep reaching for things that aren’t there anymore. Ghost hammers and screwdrivers, old clothes and blankets I always had with me.
It’s been like that a lot here. I keep reaching out to people, too, but it’s all new and the trust isn’t there yet. I’m not close to people like I used to be. When I’ve had a really bad day, I’ll run down to the beach and watch how the colors of the sunset blend across the bay. I’m proud of living on my own down here, but at the same time there’s still something so unsettled in me.
I miss you, Gram. I wish you were down the street so I could stop by after work when thedays are really long. I wish I could sit in the kitchen with you like we used to and read the newspaper and you could tell me that things were going to be okay. Money is going to even out. I’m not going to get my heart broken by girls anymore. I wish you were here to hug me.
Now, when it’s nighttime and the heat bugs are chirping outside, and I’m crying or sadover something, all I want is one of your stupid tuna salad sandwiches and the smell of your house. I miss the basement with your stacks of soup and sauce and beans. I miss the kitchen table and the ugly shag carpeting in your living room. Your pantry stock is all gone now. The shag carpeting, too. Dad ripped it all up about a year ago and found wood floors underneath it. Dad has gotten rid of a lot of things, and he’s painting the kitchen over, too. It doesn’t smell like you anymore. It doesn’t feel like your house. Now whenever I’m visiting him and we stop by, I find trinkets of yours that have been left – teapots, pictures, old mason jars. I keep collecting them, these tiny pieces of you.
Soon it’ll be the four-year anniversary of your death. They say it gets easier with time,but you came to me in a dream two months ago. You were standing right there next to the bed with your old brown smock and your hair combed out like for church, so tangible it almost felt like you were really there.