Thanks to seven friends who offered helping hands in exchange for pizza and beer, we are all loaded up. The many hands made light work of the hauling, and their expertise in loading trucks and their knack for spatial relationships (a skill I’m sorely lacking) was much appreciated. It’s good to have friends. Leaving them behind is certainly not something we’re looking forward to. But tomorrow we hit the road, driving our 16-foot Penske truck through the western reaches of Maryland, into the cross-studded hills of West Virginia, and through the bluegrass of Kentucky to my parents’ home in Louisville.
Tonight our apartment is nearly empty, and it very much reminds me of what it looked like when I first arrived here almost exactly four years ago. Then there was not much beyond white walls and the smattering of furniture Jeff had already moved in. Now there are colorful walls, but still just a smattering of furniture, this time that which we will leave behind. Though I will be coming back here, living with just an air mattress, small table, a few dishes, and my computer for two weeks, it feels like this is it. For Jeff, it pretty much is. Maybe one or two nights post-Louisville trip, but he’s just about spent his last nights here. Four years ago, he started things out living here alone for a week or two before I arrived. Now I close things down, living here alone for the final two weeks.
This place has been good to us. It’s the first place the two of us both called home, the place we moved in together just after getting engaged. We painted the walls together, dripping blue and green paint all over ourselves and the plastic we’d been wise enough to put over the carpet. We picked out furniture and decor, aiming to have a home and not just a house. Here we planned our wedding, mulling over the guest list, picking out readings and music, making a long list of do-not-play songs for the DJ. Here we addressed envelopes and licked them close until we lost all sense of taste. Here we built the foundation of a life together.
In this one-bedroom apartment we fought over stupid things and then made up. We laughed much more often than we yelled or cried. We played Scrabble, Uno, and Yahtzee here. Here Jeff howled hysterically at my video playing skills, and I’d laugh until I couldn’t breath whenever I talked Jeff into participating in my impromptu dance parties. We cooked together in our kitchen, then watched deer out our window as we ate dinner at the tiny card table we called a dining table. We celebrated birthdays here. We had friends over for Derby parties, Super Bowl parties, Rock Band parties, game nights, and for absolutely no reason at all. We decorated our first Christmas tree here, and we figured out how to keep the tree from falling over the next year. We lived out the first three years of our marriage here.
I sold my first freelance article here. And I was here when I found out I had gotten my first “book deal.” On many long, late nights here, Jeff wrote his thesis. And it was here, over the past four years, that we schemed and saved, planned and proposed, dreamed and desired, daring to turn a vague wish to travel into the reality of a year-long trip around the world. When I close the door behind me for the last time, I expect to feel a slight twinge of sadness. But I’ll take the memories, store them carefully in a place I can access whenever I wish, and then step off into the future, in search of the next place to call home, whether it be for four years, four days, or four decades.