[In my last post, Ella was looking for a new home. She wanted to leave her anonymous life in a downtown high-rise. She found a reasonably priced and attractive apartment in a city neighborhood and signed a two-year lease for the place. She wondered who lived next door.]
By the next month, I was the happy occupant of a cheery and comfortable apartment. My old neighbors’ reaction was predictable. “What do you know about the neighborhood? Do you have a doorman? How are you going to get around? Where’s the closest bus stop?” Always more questions.
I put off telling my son I’d moved again. When I sold the old house and rented in the high-rise, Lonnie already was working in London. Certain he’d never claim them, I sold most of his old Goth LP records, cassette tapes, and horror comic books to vintage vendors on the North Side. He asked for them as I was packing for the move and blew up when I told him what I did with them.
“You could have asked me first.”
“You never mentioned them, all the years you’ve been away. I assumed you didn’t care.” I pointed to two shoe boxes. “Here, I didn’t sell this stuff. Didn’t even peek inside. Take them since you care so much about this junk.”
“How would you know if I cared? And it isn’t junk.” And on and on.
Moving from a three-bedroom suburban ranch home to a much smaller space, I had needed to discard a lot of belongings. Ten years after he died, my husband’s clothes still carried the smells of his life: stale cigarettes once tucked in the pocket of a brown tweed sport coat, the mineral scent of his grey flannel business suits, a yellow cashmere sweater vest bearing hints of his citric aftershave—ghosts of his days were hanging on one side of the closet. On the opposite rack, my size-eighteen-petite polyester dresses drooped in recycled dry-cleaner bags. After my diabetes diagnosis, I’d dieted down to a size 12, but never got around to ridding myself of my “fat” clothes. I did sell my grey mink stole, however; it was hardly worn and no longer in style.
Not that the house was too big, but I was tired of cleaning it. I wasn’t getting any younger. Then, there was the commute to work—what a waste of time.
Time, the bathroom mirror was saying to me, you can’t afford to waste any more of it on the headaches this house gives you. Look at yourself.
I did, good and hard. My reflection was a thinner version of my mother’s, like her mouth’s little sagging corners and the small puckers of skin under her eyebrows. My eyeliner always reprinted itself on my puffy eyelids. Time’s corrosion was etching tiny lines from my upper lip to my nose. When I stared into the reflection of my irises, however, still brown and free from capillary entanglements, I saw the original me, the one I knew was keeping my eyes open to possibilities. A fresh start and an infusion of cash would energize me, I thought, so I sold the house and moved into the high-rise. Now, with even fewer possessions, I looked forward to a cozy place all my own.
The first week in my new walk-up, I spent hours arranging furniture. I put an IKEA daybed with two drawers in the second bedroom, just in case. Other delightful dilemmas arose. Should my bed go up against my bedroom’s window or face it? Would there be room for an armchair if I angled the bed into a corner? Would a bright Hawaiian-themed shower curtain be too much to face in the morning? Little things. I was so busy setting up the kitchen and finding places to store my still abundant gadgets, I didn’t notice much else.
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