You decide you want your own life back. The life you led before the last 24 years and so you tried to run away. It wasn’t easy, was it?
What happened was that you needed to breathe.
It all started when you went to the beach two months ago. You packed the car full of sunny things like your striped umbrella and your striped chair and your colorful towels and you drove south to your favorite stretch of beach and you fell onto the hot sand and just lay there looking at the sky and the clouds and the horizon line.
You were alone and you were fine.
This is no longer the life I want to be leading.
The statement inserts itself in your mind. Or it asserts itself.
This is not the vision I had for my life.
You have never been able to speak about things that matter to you with him. His presence looms large and for years all his decisions loomed large too. Maybe this is the way all things go, in the end. There are many female writers from the past who faced this particular turn. What they did was run, or fill a pocket full of stones.
Somehow here you have lost all control.
If you want something else you are going to have to build it all by yourself.
You are going to have to face what has happened by writing it.
Too much loss. The decade of loss and pain cloaks the walls of the house. He loves it better than any house he’s ever lived in.
In the days you were gone he began to work on things, by himself.
There wasn’t really a place you could go but you had to so you did.
One night back and the tension sets in. You can’t even sleep. You can’t even breathe.
“I have to move,” you tell him.
“I have to have a place where I can write.”
“I found a house.”
You say this tearfully because you aren’t sure what the outcomes or edges are going to be.
Your life collapsed around you while the two of you took your parents to the end of things. Just before your mother there was his father, and your dogs, and his job, and then yours, and then your mother, and before that your grandfather and before him your grandmother, and then finally, in 2004 his mother.
“We need to try and live, now,” you tell him.
You are no longer interested in the places that you have.
What you need is a seachange.
“I want that house because I want to be alive right now,” you tell him.
You found it by accident, and for sale, and somebody else had just escaped this earth and left all their things behind them.
Somehow it fits.
You spend a few days walking around the ruined garden. You sit on the weathered porch that dates from 1900 and you want to simplify things while you look at the sea. The bank owns it now, perhaps. The neighbor has told you this. You peek in the windows and you can see the life that must have been led there. It’s intact.
You see the room that you could write in.
The fact that someone has passed away means little because it was a different life. You like the ghost of the person immediately because you recognize that he was a writer. Maybe a playwright.
Out in the garage there are tools and books by Tennessee Williams.
There are books on wooden boats and how to build them and shelves that could hold everything you need to bring.
It’s like a doll house.
A doll house where somebody might have been sad but nobody knew.
You are told by the neighbor that the kids didn’t love their father and so this is why it is left like this, just intact.
You peek through the windows into the downstairs part and you see a boy’s room with sports trophies lined up on a shelf and it’s intact too.
You think to yourself that the son wanted nothing of his childhood, and that maybe it might have been sad so he just left it behind.
The kitchen is a charming thing. All Valentine red and knotty pine and high ceilings and you realize you could take it tonight — just move right in and start breathing fresh sea air and looking at clouds. You realize you can paint sunsets from that deck and walk on the beach that is your favorite every day while you dream up stories.
To you it isn’t a ruin. It is a project where you can jumpstart yourself after so much sadness that no person would have ever been able to go through it. It seems like a small thing to ask a husband.
“I am trying to stay alive,” you tell him.
“I have to have that house.”
He called you four times while you were gone.
Finally you went home.
He had tears in his eyes.
Already you feel the vaccum closing in again around you. You can’t sleep. You can’t eat. You can’t cry. You can’t express anything in this silence. You tried to tell people on the outside how you felt but it didn’t do much good. They have their own lives and you have yours.
“I need to take care of myself right now,” you tell him.
“I need to try and stay alive, and I want that house.”
The pressure to try and convince him of why this is going to be a good thing is overwhelming.
He finally admits that a change might be okay. You could sell something, like a property.
“Can you please help me get that house,” you say.
Your lungs feel like a compression chamber.
You had vowed to yourself that you would help him with his mother because you knew what it was going to be like when the time came. And you had. You had had to stand there at the end of the bed and be strong again two years later, all over again. Strong for him. But haven’t you always been the strong one?
“I have lost everything,” you tell him. Everything that mattered to me.
The thought dawns that you can do a simple job. You can be a waitress. You can teach yoga. You can write stories and it will be easier.
You realize that life can be fun again once you are out of this compression chamber, and once you can get to the sea.
* * *
“Seachange” copyright 2009 by Valentine Bonnaire — all rights reserved.
This is music for that house. I have heard it before, many times…