THIS OLD HOUSE
The Before: I remember sitting across from a friend of mine, someone I had trusted and loved for years, caught between how much she had given me and how much she had forsaken me. It was excruciating, really, sitting over that salad in a brightly lit deli next to the university that had broken me. I remember how sympathetic her face turned and how the rage against that look made the olives on my plate taste bitter. I told her “it changed me,” hoping for her to finally see the depth of the damage. She said something to the effect of “good. It was time to grow up.” Peter Pan. She could not see me from her world, I was simply Peter Pan. And I let her go so that I could keep the memories of us. She had loved me before, what we used to have was real. I needed to keep that. I love her still. But, we change, don’t we?
It did change everything, losing my job. There are reasons for that, but today is not the day for that exploration. Today is the day that I called a teacher friend of mine, a successful fiction writer, who I knew would be important in my life. Not in the way of epic friendships, or edging up my own teaching skills, or even in the way of just garnering a good listener—rather, my friend has an important skill. He still believes in magic and possibility, but he never misses the mark when calling me out on my bullshit. And here’s what I found out today: PTSD is a cruel teacher.
I used to blog like breathing. Writing my struggles and sharing my life allowed me to be free for the first time: it was the real me. No more disapproving mother, no more hiding, no more. So, this blog was like a cozy witchy cottage, filled with sparkly blue jars and bracketed by a warm fireplace and a creaky rocking chair. And it’s where the bomb went off.
So. It’s five years later and I’m standing here. I crowbarred the door open and am just standing here, the dust dancing across the light, and I don’t know if I have the strength to sit down. How many times have I imagined just bulldozing this place down? No one would remember, given enough time. I could just take a brick or two and put them on my mantle where I live now. Remember when I wanted to, forget when I need to . . . let the explosion have the bones of the house.
But then . . . my friend Terry suggested something crazy. Renovation. Some new paint? I’m older now, I’m different now, maybe rebuild the porch? Add a garden. Put some new books on the shelf. See who still wants to come and sit a spell with me—perhaps even invite a stranger or two over? Like any structure, the woods are taking it all back. But I could get my machete out . . . ask the trees to let the sun back in . . . pull the weeds and wrestle the vines back . . .
If I did this, rebuilt a bit, it wouldn’t be quite the same. It couldn’t be for you, readers. It would have to be for me. That’s not to say that we couldn’t have a deep friendship, it’s just that: I’ve become a crone. I’m not so swayed by public opinion anymore. And if I clean all this shrapnel up, sage the room, and sit back down in this here rocker, it’s going to be mine again.
It would be the one that I (one day) die in. I wouldn’t leave the room again if another bomb went off. It would have to be my last stand, and one doesn’t just willy-nilly make a last stand. I’m going to study on this, think about what I would want the cottage to be, and maybe cry a little on the floor for the past. There’s a penny in my hand, a can of purple paint in the truck, a gas can on the porch, and I have a decision to make.
She was a pretty little cottage. I’ll let you know her fate.