I came home to an empty house tonight. Unexpectedly.
It’s not a big deal, but as a Cancer (that’s always my excuse, even though I don’t really follow astrology) I like to plan and know things in advance. If I had known I’d be alone, I would have planned a TV night, a cleaning night, or maybe I would have stayed out and chilled at Starbucks for an hour or so. Anything to avoid, well, you know…
Or, more likely, you don’t know. So I’ll tell you, and then I’ll explain. Panic. Emptiness. Loneliness. The past three years have been eventful in both the very best and the very worst of ways. And quite honestly, I think it’s left me frazzled. Frazzled to the point that a simple empty house is enough to launch fears and insecurities that use memory as their fuel.
The first memory is of a psychologically abusive romance that toggled on and off for two and a half years. Wanting to belong to someone more than wanting to be happy or treated well was an awful habit I formed, crystallizing in the first three months of that romance. My self-esteem took quite a blow, as I discovered I was not nearly as sophisticated, unpoor, attractive, intelligent or young as I had previously believed.
But at last I severed those ties, and half a year later, began a romance with an imposter, aka Memory #2. I became a part of a world, a family. I had a sister, a mother again, and a dog, albeit a lethargic, mostly unaffectionate dog. I felt I was leaving the darkness of Memory #1 behind me, where I was an embarrassment to his friends and un-introducable to his family. (Once, Memory #1 dropped me off at Waffle House on Christmas morning before going to his parents’ house to spend the holiday.)
I only spent eight months in my new world before being served my walking papers. They were served coldly and abruptly, and by an entirely different being in the same body as the person I thought was my partner. With an affected “I still got love for you,” as if I were his hanging buddy, he sent me on a tear-smeared highway of 30-plus miles to my house, and then on a depression-drenched road from Catatonia where the scenery was an agonizing, endless replay of every single moment of those eight months, playing over and over again for two solid months.
While I would never credit the Imposter with snapping me out of my funk, it probably was in fact the sudden reveal (on Facebook, no less) that he was playing house with his best female friend, the one he couldn’t WAIT for me to meet when we were first together. The one he accompanied to all sorts of functions as a “rent-a-date.” The one his mom warned me about when he wasn’t around. The one he accused me of being jealous of when I couldn’t fathom why I would have a reason to be jealous. The one he went out and partied with when I fell sick one weekend. The one he spent a weekend in Savannah with immediately prior to breaking up with me. They’re married now.
That’s when I knew I had been nothing more than a pleasant distraction while the happy couple got their stars perfectly aligned. He had never meant to keep me, but that hadn’t stopped him from playing the role fiercely. I stopped grieving my own inadequacy and began to heal. Partially.
A month ago, a friend of mine lost her husband suddenly. I was not close enough to them to warrant the reaction I experienced. I cried over her loss, and I think of them often. Her grief resonates with me, and only in the past month have I come to realize that I, in thinking back on a relationship that never was, with a person who never really was, have psychologically grasped that experience as a death, and it chills me.
Memory #3 was an actual death. My father passed barely within a year of the death of the Imposter. This was difficult, but not impossible. As strange as it sounds, I had lost a parent before, much younger, and much more tragically, so I knew I was equipped to do it again.
I was prepared psychologically for my father’s death, but I was not prepared for the resultant spiral of circumstances.
I was starting to feel secure and on-track with my life plan. Writing has always been one of my main aspirations, and I succeeded in blogging each day of the month prior to his passing. I was enjoying a new position at my job. I had someone new and reliable in my life. All was well.
The entire six months following my father’s passing were a blur. I fell behind at work and was held responsible for it, after missing a week for the funeral and arrangements. I then had to travel four weeks for my job in the next two months. Then I was driving back and forth to Nashville once a month to continue to clean up and clean out his living quarters and check on my stepmom.
At the end of it all, I was left with no time for writing, no patience for work, and only my partner and a couple of close friends to lean on. I was stuck in a house I hated, shoulder high in furniture and books moved from my dad’s place in Nashville. I was disheveled.
So the past year and a half have been spent unwinding the chaos of Memory #3. I sold as many of the books as possible and donated the rest. I gave away or disposed of his furniture and mine, until my house was empty. I paid off my credit cards in full after a 20-year struggle with debt, and used the extra cashflow to move out of that house and rent a place in the city.
As my crowning achievement, I moved into a beautiful house with my partner a month ago, and my fortunes have never looked brighter. Except that sometimes I come home to an empty house and the memories whisper to me from the silence.
It was only a month removed from the depression following Memory #2 when I met my current partner. I was still fragile at the time we met, and I’m still fragile now. He has proved to me in a thousand ways that he is there for me, but still I come home to an empty house and feel panic. I don’t like what the memories did to me. I know I should be grateful for the experiences and the lessons learned, but mostly I wish I could silence their whispers. For now, I’ll have to shush them with an overly introspective blog post and a tight, lingering hug when the one I await gets home.