portraits of loss, my own

a plastic heart-charm from an '80s childhood, fallen through the missing ceiling and onto the missing hallway floor.

i went back the first real time yesterday. i walked through the house -- the house my dad has spent every spare second for a year clawing through, cleaning, and trying to preserve. hardly anything is worth preseving, but when this is your life molding and rotting away, you do what you can.

the keys, rusty but still hanging in the keep-safe spot on the wrought-iron entryway to the living room. how did they survive when the doors they opened are gone?

the house was so strange. i lived for twenty-one years in this house, and yet, i couldn't place myself in it. i couldn't get oriented. i had difficulty telling where i was. this is the kitchen? this is the living room? this was my bedroom? my mind still sees it like it was and i couldn't put that together with what is there. i could see straight through the house, through beams and joints and joists.

i could see into the attic, through all of the rooms. everything looked so tiny. tiny, tiny, dwarfed even by the tiny fema trailor on the lawn. i don't know how or why, but the roof felt like it was right on top of my head. the backyard -- birthday and fourth of july parties, and endless summer nights in high school -- and i couldn't imagine all those people fitting there even though i knew they did.

and currently in the trash pile in front of the house: my childhood. preserved in the attic for twenty-five years for future grandkids, i suppose. now waiting for garbage pickup under the styrofoam container from someone's lunch. and i see it all around, but i still can't imagine a whole city collectively sorting through and burying their lives.

for a year, i've been saying my dad should let it go, to start over. why try to save a toolbox or refinish a coffee table that's been through this mess? why waste time going back home, when it will never be home again? but i think i understand: right before i left, i pulled my old kimberly clark doll out of that trash pile and took her with me.

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