The Old Apartment.

The day I moved, you helped me. You helped me put all my things, both precious and insignificant, into countless boxes and you carried them with me to my then-new apartment.

I walked in and the first thing I noticed was the view. Raindrops were spattered across the pollen-dusted window pane but I could see the whole river valley, still heavy with springtime, from my new seventeenth floor perch. I took a break from lifting heavy boxes for a moment and stared out at the world, which looked back at me with bright unblinking eyes. This was my home now, I thought. It was mine but you helped me build it.

The whole empty unit echoed as I walked around; even the rubber soles of my sneakers made a reverberated slap, slap, slap as I walked across the hard wood floor of the living room and dropped box after box along the permiter of the room.

I staked out my bedroom, the bigger one, since in my previous apartment I lived in a dark, tiny closet-like space that was filled with furniture and piles of belongings that never fit anywhere except sprawled across the floor. I have too many things. You told me that when you helped me move. I’ve never seen someone with so much stuff, you said. Maybe not in so many words… it’s amazing how we both remember and forget these seemingly miniscule conversations with those we care — cared — about. Regardless of how you said it though, it was what you said; or didn’t say; that mattered. In the case of the new apartment, this was no different. And you were probably right. I did indeed have too much stuff. I carried these burdens of bags with me, one after the other, piling them, dragging them, their canvas straps digging into my supple shoulder blades as I walked with them. You helped a bit — a lot I should say,  but then they were your burdens too. One evening during the move, we had plans to go for drinks together but you never showed up; later you told me you made plans with your friends instead. I guess you were as tired of those burdens as I was.

That spring, we still saw winter’s ever-so-slow demise. Unseasonable cold and snowy days, one after the other. It reminded me of that day in March. You know the one I mean. One minute it was freezing and my cheeks were damp with chilly humidity, chapped and bright fleshy magenta; the next day, it was sunny and icicles were falling off awnings and landing like huge crystalline raindrops on the wet, slushy pavement. Except that unexpected warm day never seemed to come. Just more rain, more moisture, more chill. I let it embrace me because I thought, “I deserve this.” I was probably right about that much.

I lived in that home for three years and for more than half of that time, each and every square of the wooden floor withheld reminders of you; I could hear your laugh in every room; I could see your large, pale hands stroking the silken pointed ears of my black cat. I could feel those same hands caressing the small of my back, the length of my black hair, while we stood outside the front doors. I could feel your sturdy shoulder catching and absorbing the weight of my head while we were watching a movie. I remember you, with a note of concern crossing your voice, expressing to me my need to see a doctor about my insomnia and the pains in my legs. I remember standing in my doorway with you in the hallway across from me, your gray and blue sneakers resting on the forest-green carpet as I told you, “You can do better.” I was speaking to your employment but what I meant at the time was, “You can do better than me; you can do better than us; why are you even standing across from me when we both know that?” You nodded at me before telling me how appreciative you were that I had said that. And that’s when I knew it would never last.

Just the other day I took the last of my belongings, both precious and insignificant, out of that apartment and into my new one which is downtown with a slick but bright eleventh floor view of all of downtown Edmonton where I feel like just a tiny drone looking out a window, living among a sea of brightly-lit windows. I walked around the old apartment, ensuring everything had been collected, cleaned and disposed of and I could hear my winter boots clicking with precision echoing throughout the unit. I wiped cloudy splotches and fingerprints off the mirrors; I rubbed faded marks and stains off the walls. Once I closed and locked the door behind me, I realized I left no trace of myself there whatsoever. It was gone. All of it. As if I had never been there; as if you had never been there. As if none of it existed and all those memories, the ones not captured in pictures or on video or in a diary – the ones that just belonged to us while we sat in my living room and talked til the early, still-dark hours of the morning while sharing a bottle of wine and lamenting about what it meant to be a starving artist while making fun of ourselves and each other — had now disappeared. They had seeped into the wall and were wiped away with a damp cloth, and that ends that chapter, forever.


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