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It's Nelly's World

Back, and Gone

alec vanderboom

Moving is such a special hell. Get out the trowel, and dig. Dig under the hairy roots of vines, hit rock. Break shovel. Throw away. See something peeking up from the dirt; recoil in morbid terror but reach out with irresistible curiosity. What forgotten thing from the past is coming up from under the dirt? Put it in a cardboard box. Take it with you.

Driving the station wagon across the reservoir on moving day--I moved the bike to the new house first thing in the morning, because I was already so tired that later on the exhaustion would have made it like riding drunk--I was ferrying another load of stuff and listening to anthem rock from the eighties blaring from the radio. I was wondering how I'd gotten here. No, not via 213 to 28A. I mean toward the brink of freedom. Joy was peeking out from behind the clouds, sending its rays to glint against the priceless drinking water belonging to the great city to our south. (The drinking water into which one summer day I dipped my naked body some twenty-five years ago; someone had a great sip of me later that week.) Pain and regret and fear were also tearing at me. It was wonderful, it was awful. It was life. And in that moment, realizing this, and that this was my life, and that it could not have possibly been any other way--this move, at this point in time, in the midst of this curious passage on the other side of which is I don't know what, which is both blessing and curse--I found myself laughing out loud and sobbing in the exact same moment.

The Town of Olive dump has views so magisterial they could make angels sing. Two of my friends appeared, at different points in the packing and lifting, but unbidden both, just when I needed them most. They can have no idea what it meant to me; possibly that I am connected by live wire to their hearts. I can still receive a signal from WVKR, because though I am much farther away, I am also 300 feet higher in elevation. I get to drive across that reservoir, in the witness of a cradle of mountains, whenever I want to visit my old haunts. I am one mile by the clock from wood-fired pizza. The frogs play the banjo all night long in the woodland swamp out back. I have a blank slate on which to make the first tentative chalk marks of a new life.

I have my own place.

These are some of the gratitudes I bear. There will be more to come. I wish I could lift furniture by myself. I wish that I did not have so much stuff. But I lift it tenderly out of its cardboard vaults, and turn my past gently and wonderingly in my hands. Then I look for somewhere to put it.