On Saturday mornings, I have to walk by there. The house on Brookside Avenue.
The guy who lives there now keeps all the blinds down. He doesn’t know me, doesn’t know my penchant for looking into the windows of places I pass, seeking clues as to how others live. He can’t know that I walk by here on Saturdays hoping he’ll offer a bookshelf, or a standing lamp.
Brookside Avenue was our “get well” apartment. We’d been struggling with each other and the place in which we lived. After ten years, we were too old to be dealing with an absentee landlord and the rhythmic pounding of our upstairs neighbors’ excessively loud lovemaking. After ten years, we had to make some decisions about where we were living, and how. Ten years of active addiction, betrayals, and squalid ennui had piled up into the walls and behind the filing cabinets and I felt as though I were living in a Faulkner novel. So we moved. We moved into the first place we saw: Brookside Avenue.
We lived there for three years, and yet my memories of the place are almost exclusively of it being empty, or near-empty. I remember moving in, I remember unpacking plates and putting in them in one of the three (three!) cabinets in the kitchen while the cable guy struggled with our television in the next room. It was poorly designed, that kitchen, but it was blonde, bright, modern, and newly remodeled, and at the time I wanted something unspoiled.
We had parties there, I’m certain of it. It was the first place I felt like regularly cleaning. Within its walls, I continually felt as if I’d narrowly avoided disaster. While this was markedly better than feeling suffocated, it still didn’t feel secure. Finding asylum from your own madness is not the same as feeling at home.
I also remember moving out. I remember scrubbing the giant, silver-and-black refrigerator, wanting desperately to leave as blank a slate as I’d found, for this guy who now pulls all his blinds down, offering nothing.