We dwell in chaos.
The house is deep in prayer tonight, quaking in its beams, hoping it will never be in this state again. Piles of old schoolwork, unfolded maps, and bills spread across the carpet. Bathroom drawers empty, cleaning supplies spread across the linoleum. Chinese food leftovers spread across TV trays and kitchen table. Wine in plastic cups. Our front porch looks like a Saturday Night Live skit about Oakies, with two chairs and a couch, a nightstand set up to hold ashtray, sunglasses, cell phones and drinks. Boxes stacked everywhere.
We can’t get cell phone reception inside the house so anytime someone calls we have to dash around, hollering to the other, “Did you get reception upstairs this morning? Outside? Where is it good? Hold on, honey, I can’t hear you… WHAT DID YOU SAY?”
We have two cars, one an automatic I could drive if I wasn’t scared that it would stop running (it’s misbehaving, but don’t worry, we’ve found a wonderful car psychiatrist), the other a stick shift I can’t. This means I can only go places my mommy will drive me, or walk the brief radius around our house I care to: Chinese restaurant, Fred Meyer groceries, and the post office are the exciting destinations I can look forward to when leaving the house. It’s not much better when my mom drives, after all, we never leave Salem, and in Salem, it’s best if you don’t look around too much.
Our mission is to pack up the house, move its contents into a storage unit, hand over the keys to a tenant family, and flee. We are caught in limbo between unhappy stasis and the unknown future. More simply, we ain’t here, but we ain’t anywhere else yet, either.
Our work outfits, however, make us fit right in with the Salem “look.” I found a pair of my dad’s old swim trunks, a festive orange and sexy knee length, that I sport with whatever old t-shirt I can find, sometimes one with a hacked-off neckline. My mom is usually dressed in even lovelier ensembles. We’ll put mascara and lipstick on to make ourselves feel better but somehow it doesn’t counteract the effect of unshaven legs, mismatched colors and dirt stains.
But the outfits are practical. “Tons of storage space” sounds like a feature until you have to empty them out. The storage shed out back was a day and a half’s adventure on its own, as local squirrels had used it as a headquarters, nesting in motorcycle helmets, tearing apart bicycle tires, and collecting foot-high piles of fuzz. We only found one actual squirrel, swinging out from where it had gotten caught and died only days before, judging from the corpse’s freshness. The back of the shed stank of squirrel piss. But we were just as bad, lining corners with people fuzz instead of squirrel fuzz. You’d think we’d lived here for decades- how can four people accumulate so much junk over the course of five years? Roller skates, a barbecue, fishing equipment, balls for various games no one had played in this family in a century, maybe two.
Inside the house, days are measured by how many seats have been lost. The living room couch, where I had sat with my laptop only yesterday, is now surrounded by boxes. You can perhaps reach the chair if you have the right equipment, but what would you do once you got there?
Some of the kitchen cabinets have post-its on them marked “This.”
I was sleeping with my pet rabbit in what used to be my brother’s bedroom. We sold the bed, so now I sleep upstairs in what used to be my dad’s office. Flip still sleeps downstairs, with his own coverlet, double size, spread across the carpet so that he can fling his hay and pellets from dishes without concern. He gets bored back there, just chewing on boxes, eating hay and staring into space, but I can’t bring him upstairs because I haven’t rabbit-proofed the office yet, and don’t have time.
The day after tomorrow, movers come to help us empty this house’s contents into a U-Haul and drive them to a local storage unit(s). The day after that, we check into a Portland hotel, and the day after that, fly to Buffalo, NY.
I’ll spend one week with my brother in Buffalo and then fly from Toronto to Paris, Paris to Barcelona. Sound cool? You bet. But we’re counting down the hours, and the house is still littered with things that should be in boxes. I have done a minimum of research about what I need to bring to Spain, much less packed anything. And I still have to forge my rabbit’s traveling papers before my mom packs the printer. Do you see the logistical force, whizzing toward me like blue rays in a low budget sci-fi movie, symbolizing movement, colliding universes- do you see the collision? DO YOU?!