The last time I was there, I barely recognized the home my family had lived in for sixteen years. It had been stripped of everything that had made it ours, reduced to a sterile husk of a place I might have once recognized. Painstaking efforts had been made to erase traces of my family from the place, down to the scuffs on the basement walls, which were covered in a shade of white paint carefully chosen by my mother in a final possessive act. It was somehow stranger to see the house completely emptied than it was to live in rooms filled with boxes for so many months. There is no unpacking empty space, no way to label or mark it. Sharpie scrawl on the side of boxes no longer distinguished “Ed’s Office” from “Luke’s Room.” For the first time in my life, the house felt unfamiliar.
It would be dishonest to describe the last time I stood in my bedroom as a purely melancholy experience. There was venom there, something unhealthy, a jealousy of whoever would come after me and inhabit the one space I had long claimed as my own. My room was different from the rest of my house: it had been built for me when my mother became pregnant with my youngest brother and we needed to add a third bedroom. My room was the only space in the house that had only ever had one inhabitant. It was mine and mine alone. Seeing the space my bed had once occupied, the posterless walls, and the carpetless floors made me feel a sort of bitterness I’m not proud of. This was the place I loved most in the world, and if I couldn’t have it I didn’t want anybody else to. I wished I could tear the room right off the side of the house, and that we could sell the place in its original form. I wanted my room to die with me, not become somebody else’s.
I looked out the window and saw the little playhouse my grandfather had given me over a decade ago, nestled between the trees in the backyard, barely visible from my second floor bedroom. It was the only thing we were leaving behind, too large and inconvenient to pack onto a moving truck. I wasn’t sure if the family who came after us would keep it. It was old and
infested with bees, untouched since my younger brothers and I had grown out of it. I figured its days were numbered, but I held on to a little bit of hope. Maybe they’d keep it, and one day a neighbor would come over and recognize it as the Hudsons’, and we would be brought back home for the duration of a story.
I didn’t want to leave. There was an elemental attachment I felt to my room that kept me glued to the floorboards. I tried desperately to conjure up the memory of what the room had looked like only weeks before. I wanted so badly to have some kind of final emotional experience, to have all the memories of my life in this space come flooding over me in these last moments. But they never came. The emptiness of the room I stood in overpowered my memory of what it once had been. I realized in that moment that I was already gone, that my final look at this place had happened long ago, on some random day in a time before my home was flooded with cardboard boxes. A new phase in my life wasn’t on the horizon, it had already arrived. This was not a goodbye, it was a post-mortem, a final, bare reminder that I shouldn’t linger. That the car was waiting. That I had to go.