The house was put up for sale and every time I drive up I see that sign with some measure of dread. Couples come in, some with children, looking around, opening up my closet, craning their necks up at the best feature of our house which is the soaring ceiling in the living room. I want to yell at them all to get out.
So when they come in, I pretend I can’t hear them with my headphones on even though most of the time I’m not listening to anything. I hate it when they open up my closet the most.
We didn’t appreciate this house when we had it. I always thought that the backyard was too ugly since we got rid of the grass and hill, replacing it for gravel where ragged weeds shoot up because we’re too lazy to pull them out. I never liked how on a certain day of the week I’d be woken up by the sounds of people with leaf blowers or lawn mowers. The walls were painted in colors I didn’t like because my mom has bad taste. The blinds were annoying and got stuck all the time.
Now that we have to let it go, though, maybe I feel a measure of attachment to this house that I complained so much about. We lived in it for 11 years. We didn’t fix things when they got broken, choosing instead to live around it. My door’s lock doesn’t work, but who really needs a lock on their bedroom door? Some other family deserves it more. Maybe the neighborhood will get better again and talk to each other after years of silence.
We’re the last family to move out of the three who first came to the newly built houses in this alley. The initial family to leave were moving on to bigger things, renting out the house and buying a bigger one. Since the real estate market went down, they’ve been struggling a lot, and that woman whose children I despise came slinking around, asking us to sell our house. The family from the top of the hill bought a house right next door, did very well for a while, and then ran away to Korea. I worked for them for a few months and when I realized that the money wasn’t worth it, I quit, and now we don’t speak to them anymore.
New families moved in and we didn’t bother getting to know them. There was enough drama with the first two families that it wasn’t worth it to get involved.
The family who lives in the house across from us was here when we first arrived. They’ll be there when we’re gone, but they’re different now too. I don’t see the dad around. One night, the grandpa was taken away in an ambulance and never came back. The van we sold to them, the one we used to take trips to Vegas to, sits in their driveway, unused. Sometimes my dad frets about it because it used to be his.
Maybe I’ll fret about this house because it used to be mine too. I tried to imagine coming back after years, hopefully a successful person with a few books published, and ringing on the doorbell. Looking into that window on the side and see unfamiliar furniture, rooms being used in ways that we didn’t.
Houses are just the shell and I have to remember that. And I have to remember too that I was going to leave eventually. Inevitably.