Settled Places

It hadn’t occurred to me. Perhaps it was the last thing that had to heal over; the last vestige of being hurt, of mourning.

The other parts were so obvious: sadness, anger, frustration, fear, overindulgence in everything. When I got here, I decided that the best way to leave the past behind was to run forward, full steam. I had to change everything. I had to make a new life. Make new friends. Take new chances. Learn new skills. Build things with my hands. Build a life. Become something new. Phoenix from the ashes, right? So trite.

But it was important to keep moving forward. The Year of Saying Yes. It helped me to distance myself. And that helped me to start to heal.

Yet in the back of my mind, for so long, the past was still there. Being here, in this apartment, in this city, in this job, with these friends … I never admitted it before, not even to myself, but I knew. All of it felt like a visit. Everything felt like a station. A transition. A period of my life before things got back to where they had been. I guess I only realized it now, but I really think I kept looking at this apartment as the place I lived before I moved back to Baltimore. The city just a layover. The job just preparing me for getting back to the professional community I had always planned on being a part of, somewhere else. The friends? Did I really look at these friendships and think, “I’m so glad these people took care of me during the time I was with them, before I headed back home.”

Some part of me looked at all of this as the trappings of pleasantness I used to get myself right.

I still use the name of a scraggly, timid, bossy, bullheaded, pompom-tailed dog as a password. Tonight was the first time I felt disconnected from it. She’s not my dog, and she won’t be again.

And that’s okay. Sincerely, it’s good.

Before I got up to jot this down, I was sitting in bed, reading The Walking Dead. An open pack of Sour Patch Kids sits on the night stand next to an empty glass of water. I got up to refill the glass, and found Kir sleeping on the top of the couch. “All good boys and girls are going to bed!” I said. She squinted back at me, annoyed to be woken from her slumber. “Mer-Ow!” was her only response before nuzzling her face back into the cushion and returning to sleep.

Everything in the apartment is in its place. These things are mine; they have no resonant memories. The fridge is covered with artwork from my nieces, magnets from my various visits to cities across the country since I started the job, a drawing of a demonic cat face made by Hoob, a pictographic golf scorecard, and a graph I drew for the Sailor. The fridge is packed with leftovers from recipes I’ve recently learned to make, the door lined with bottles of homebrew. My records are all lined up on a shelf, except the one I have on the turntable, and its sleeve, which always rests on the same spot on my desk. Beside it are notes and scribbles and shopping lists of beer ingredients. On the coffee table, the remotes sit exactly where they always sit, and a checklist for collectibles in Dead Space 3 rests beside. My glasses are exactly where I put them every night before bed. From my seat, I see the edges of a box underneath my bed, housing a collection of heartbreaks and keepsakes, all from the last year of my life. A layer of dust lays on top of everything in here that I do not touch often. I think it was the dust that really got me; the knowledge that I’ve been here long enough to collect dust on my things.

I simply went to the kitchen to get a glass of water, and the clutter on the counter, the dismissive cat, the things being exactly where they should be … it overwhelmed me, and still I cannot stop smiling.

Tonight, for the first time, I actually felt and knew: I am no longer running. This is where I want to be, and this is a life I really have made.

Tonight, for the first time, I actually felt that this was my home.

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