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It's Nelly's World

Home Sweat Home

alec vanderboom

Spring is coming. You know how I know? Because as it is really about to arrive, it feels as though it'll never get here. March is the longest month. Sixty days of wishing.

Right now, I'm under the gun. I'm pushed to the wall. Big changes afoot. The closet, both metaphoric and real, unloads its contents on my head when I open the door. I've got a real estate broker breathing down my neck, sending me articles on how to properly "stage" a house for sale, with such uplifting tips as "Don't neglect your cabinets! Be sure that all the mug handles are turned to face the same direction."

But wait. Maybe she was just trying to cheer me up by sending me a satire, and I didn't know to laugh. I told her I was just hanging on by my fingernails, and she soothingly told me everything was going to be all right. I think maybe I will use my imminent arrival at the snapping point on her--if she calls one more time to propose a visit to "just check in," or in other words, see how close I've come to transforming a house inhabited for eight years by two people of decidedly pack-rat-ish tendency into a vacant showroom. I have been smiling silently at everyone who asks, "So, how's it going?" or simply saying I don't want to talk about it. So unlike the normally over-voluble me, spilling my guts at the merest prompt by even vague acquaintances (one of them got it between the eyes last week in the library, when she innocently mouthed the pro forma question and got in return the full waterworks; you should have seen the dismayed look of shock on this near-stranger's face: Oh, my god, remind me never to say "How are you?" to a woman whose husband has recently left her!).

I'm just putting my shoulder to the wheel now, and in three days I'll allow myself to stop, look up, and see how far the cart has rolled. Halfway to the destination? Almost there? Only two feet out of a hundred? Who knows. But I assure you, I'm not arranging the mug handles.

At some point, I will have time to do my writing again. I will be able to comply with my assignments. I will resume delivery of the newspaper. I will phone back my friends. I will start internet dating. (That's just a joke. A very bad joke, OK?) I will walk Nelly--Sorry, my dear Nelly: You don't know what's going on here, do you?

Or maybe I just assume there's some "normalcy" to return to. Yet the economy falls to pieces while I pack books. Bats fall out of the sky as I scrub the bathtubs. (Indeed, I picked up a dead bat from the driveway yesterday, folded up as if lifted from a perfect sleep and deposited in the cold daylight of death.) I clear out the Augean stables of a utility closet, and a million more babies have been born so the balance of a sustainable population tips ever more precariously, if it hasn't already clattered to the floor.

What security do I imagine I will return to, once I have found a new home that will be mine, and not what I am coming to view as the rotted-out shell of a defunct dream that was both wrested from me mid-sleep, and
an untruth that I will be so happy to put me behind me, as the moving van takes us away. (See, it is both; two opposing truths: a violent theft, and a relieving gift of wonderful freedom. How strange.) We always think we can go home again, at least. At the end of the day, we know where we'll be.

So when you're about to leave your home forever, you posit a new one in your hopeful mind, so you can go there. I can't imagine it in every particular, but I assume when this is all over, I will have a place just for me, Nelly, and my son--and I hope it's not a trailer. Nothing against your home, if it happens to be a trailer; I'm just saying that. I hope it won't be a tar-paper shack. How's that?

The other night I cleared the table, then looked back to see that my son had just poured chocolate milk all over his face. Deliberately. My first impulse--bad Melissa!--was to say, "What the heck? Why'd you go and do that? And would you STOP IT?" But something caught me. Instead, I went to look in his eyes and lowered my voice. "Is it making you sad, honey, all the changes that are going on around you?" In a tiny voice, he said, "Yeah, it makes me sad." Then he was able to wipe his face and get up. My heart went, Crack.

His assumptions are different from mine. I have lived in six or eight places I've called home; he has only this one. His notions of something called "the future" are hazy. They are, in fact, based largely on what I tell him. And I've been spinning that, hard, let me tell you. Happy, happy, happy! So uncharacteristic of me. But maybe it's put a little spin on my outlook, too.

This, too, is Nelly's only home. So long as you don't count the plastic kiddie pool that was her birthplace, in a West Virginia basement. I wonder how long it will take her to know her new place as home, every curve and turn on the road to which she knows and anticipates, standing up on the console between the seats in the car so she can see where she's going. Soon, she won't know. I wonder how long it will take for me, too? --Before it becomes the chimera of security floating above the shifting insecurity that we have made of our world, this once solid place.

Well, I'll take the chimera. I need it. A place to which I hope I'll always return. I have some great decorating ideas. To dress change upon change.