Moving Out, Moving On

by Lorien E. Menhennett

For the last 10 minutes, I’ve been staring at my bedroom walls with an immense sadness. The kind of sadness that grips your gut and tightens your throat so that you feel claustrophobic within your own skin. That kind of sadness. These old walls are a deep-sea turquoise, dark and rich. I painted them myself shortly after we moved into this house. It was a Chicago winter, so cold out – I was impatient; I couldn’t wait for spring – and I had to keep the windows open so I wouldn’t pass out from the paint fumes. So I wore my old gray Nike sweatshirt, the one I’d had since high school, a Christmas gift from my grandparents. Funny the things you remember.

Memories … I have made so many in this house. And almost seven years to the day after moving in with Geoff, I will be moving out. Alone.

It’s not that I’m going to live in a dump. I found a lovely little one-bedroom apartment in Forest Park, not far from school, not far from my friends and family. Decent rent, garage parking, lots of windows and natural light, newly refinished hardwood floors, not one but two closets in the bedroom (if you’ve ever seen my clothing collection, you’ll understand the importance of this amenity), the list goes on. I can see myself living there. And assuming my credit check goes through (which it should), the landlord told me it’s mine whenever I want it.

No, it’s what I’m leaving behind. And what those things represent. This house says “Lorien” all over it – I stripped wallpaper from the entire first floor, patched and sanded the walls, then primed and painted in a colorful palette of gold, sage, and raspberry. The upstairs I painted too, again in different colors. I wanted anything but white walls, and just about made it. (Only the kitchen, office, and Geoff’s music room are white.) This house is where we had family birthday parties, barbecues, sister sleepovers. But most of all, this house is where Geoff and I were together. We inhabited this place as husband and wife. That is over. But as long as I’m here, it doesn’t feel quite over. So as I sort through seven years’ accumulation of stuff; through my clothes and papers and books and art supplies and dishes and everything else that hides in the nooks and crannies of this big house; as I sort things into the “keep,” “throw away,” and “give away” piles; as I begin to pack things in cardboard boxes; the evidence of my former life is gradually fading away. Until eventually, when this house is empty and bare, the evidence of that life will have evacuated to the recesses of my mind. What do I do with that?

I need to move out, to move on, I know that. I can’t stay in this place anymore. But just because I need to do it doesn’t make it any easier.