July 18, 2012

Moving Back

“So where do you think your checkbook and passport are, David?”

“I don’t know where they are, mom. I thought they were in this box.”

David moves back to his childhood home.

“David. You need to be more organized.” She looked at me with that mom look. You know what I mean. The look that each time projected instantly shrinks you to your former self as a child.

“Not only are my checkbook and passport missing, mom, but I also can’t find my shoes. And I know they came with me and not into storage.”

Three men I’d never seen before had removed most of my worldly possessions to a storage room somewhere in Brooklyn. My only connection to my furniture and the things that described my life for the last fifteen year was reduced to a room number.

My mother shook her head. When will I ever learn? When will I grow up?

And I had been organized. I’d been organized for the last two months, carefully meting out packing tasks to avoid a panicked final week before the moving out. The downside, I realized too late, was that I was stuck for weeks navigating the boxes piling up in my apartment. Dozens of them. Over a hundred, actually. All this coming from the surprise of my apartment’s sale. On the market for well over a year, I had nearly forgotten about it until my broker called.

“We got an offer.”


“It’s a serious offer. It’s good.” The offer wasn’t good but it was okay. The broker had earned his commission. For more than a year he had doggedly hosted open houses in my apartment every Sunday selling, selling hard.

“So what do you want to do?” he asked, with something in his voice that approached anxiety. I had bought a house in Vermont because I didn’t want to disappoint a broker after I’d dragged her around for three years. And I was selling my apartment in New York because I wanted to make my broker here happy.

“Okay. Let’s move forward.”

I also said, “I guess.” I didn’t know what I wanted anymore. Change? Why not? I started to pack, not knowing where I was going or why I was leaving my sweet deal on the Lower East Side.

No more massage, pot, and comedy sessions with my upstairs neighbor. I’d miss the pungent cloud of dog that followed her down the stairs. I’d miss her blind chihuahua who would bump into my leg when she smelled me. I’d miss my neighbor’s hard, fake titties that she’d rub in my face. I’d miss the handjobs proffered while we watched South Park. It was the height of insanity, our thing. An intimacy devoid entirely of emotions beyond the satisfying familiarity of our mutual company. The girl I had been with, the one who moved to California so she could be with me while not actually be near me, laughed when I confessed to her the growing shenanigans underway.

“It’s probably a good thing you’re leaving that place.”

“Come back to New York and let’s get a place together.”

“I need two weeks to think things through.”

“That’s what you said two weeks ago.”

I waited. I waited two weeks, a month, two months for things to sort themselves out with her, but they never did. If she had been twenty-five she would have taken the next plane to New York. But she was at that stuck age before middle-age: too young to be free from her history and too old to take chances.

My upstairs neighbor wasn’t happy about my move and the upset in our routine. We ratcheted up the frequency of our comedy-TV-slash-other-stuff sessions.

“You fucking douche,” she texted.

“I know,” I texted back. “I think I made a terrible mistake.”

The closing was days away and I had no place to live. I’d flown to California twice, to Sonoma, which people say is some kind of paradise, but it turned out to be more like some kind of suburb with vineyards and Italianate wineries stuck in there. The photos I’d seen of those wine country roads — simulacra, really — hid the bigger picture: that Sonoma County was a bit low rent.

And now, looking for my passport and checkbook and shoes I found myself here, at my mom’s, her new roommate.

“Mom, you must’ve put the box with that stuff away. I know I packed it. I know there was another box.”

The apartment I grew up in; the room where I kissed my first girl. Back home.

OK, we’ll look again. So David, will you be home for dinner?”

“I don’t know. I might be late at work.”

“Well, can you let me know?”

“Sure, mom.”

I bemoaned this state of affairs to my colleagues as we sat in a war room, preparing for a pitch. One of them took the glass-half-full approach. I’ve never been particularly good at that.

“Look, your mother is getting older. This could be one of the last times you’ll ever spend some extended time with her. Down the road you’ll be grateful this happened.”

She was right, of course. I had focused only on the inevitable infantilizing, like how my mom insisted on making my bed, cooking all the meals, washing the dishes. She pushed me out of the way at the sink. I countered by buying her a case of wine, ordering in elaborate meals, fixing lights.

We eventually found the box with my things. My mom opened a bottle of the wine. I found a wedge of Port Salut in the refrigerator. We sat at the table together and relaxed.