I’m declaring today my New Year’s Day.
On January 19th, 2016 I finally moved out, with the “Mission Impossible” theme looping through my head the entire time. I both planned and executed this move like a ninja. I had made all the arrangements with Two Men and A Truck while sitting in the parking lot of a grocery store, so to not risk John overhearing the conversation,. In no time, I had set the date to do a confidential move. This is something they do in cases of domestic violence, stalking, or for people like me who just want to get on with their lives.
At 6am I woke up and immediately had the shakes. I realized that, on top of being nervous as hell I also hadn’t really eaten the day before. Anxious that any oddity would arouse even a shred of suspicion from John, I had left the things I wanted from the common areas unpacked and untouched, careful not to express interest in them. As he had already been stashing the things he wanted to keep without so much as a discussion, I decided that feigned indifference to what I wanted would be my best weapon. After all, he was the one who was forcing me out so he could be with some bimbo. He already took away my home, half my friends and 6 good years of my life. I’d say I was entitled to help myself to anything of “ours” that I damn well pleased.
But first, I was hungry.
For old times sake I got dressed and drove around the corner for one last quick breakfast at The Place To Be. It’s a cheap diner and one of my old favorites, and their French toast and scrambled eggs were just the thing to fuel the long day I had ahead of me. I ordered and just sat there for a bit, looking around. The diner is quintessential Americana, with its vintage bar stools and bottomless coffee – your typical no-frills classic breakfast place. The waitress spoke with a thick Greek accent and never let my coffee get below a half a cup – which is something that used to annoy me but now I really do appreciate.
I’m going to miss this place.
By 7:00am I was back home and ready to execute my well-laid plan. I hurried upstairs, closed the door to my bedroom and moved quickly but with caution, perhaps overly aware of every sound I made. I gingerly unplugged my iMac from the surge strip, wrapped it in my bedclothes and used the pillows from my bed as packing material. Anxious that even the slightest deviation from the norm would mean John had switched gears and decided to work from home, I carefully listened for anything out of the ordinary. The creaking of the old wooden stairs under his feet, the swish of the shower curtain and the steady hiss of water shooting out of the shower head were all signals that his familiar routine had commenced. So far, so good.
I was almost done packing up my bedroom when I suddenly heard the side door slam shut, alerting me that he had left for work. I scrambled downstairs as the garage door whirred open to get a look out the back window. With mixed emotions, I watched John’s car back out of the garage and roll down the street for the last time.
Adrenaline immediately took over. I got to work unearthing things that he had buried on “his” side of the basement. He had stuffed the more desirable objects in the back of the pile, clearly thinking that burying the things he knew I may want would somehow keep me from getting them. He clearly hadn’t thought this through. Oh no, now nothing was going to stop me from taking whatever the hell I wanted, and certainly not some feeble pile of old monitors and shitty kitchen chairs from the 70’s.
I dug out my deceased father’s TV stand (for some reason among said buried things) and the mini fridge from the attic bar we had built in the old house. I gave them a quick cleaning, shoved some of the Tupperware into the fridge and moved on to the upstairs, where I promptly removed the curtains from all the windows. Every move felt calculated, like I was going down a checklist. My emotions completely shut down and the logical, “get shit done” side of my brain had kicked into full gear.
The decorations from the dining room he had thought he had hidden so cleverly were carefully packed up as well. I continued this frenzy, snagging the cool Halloween tombstones, strobe lights and fog machine, my pillow he had commandeered from his bed, all the champagne flutes and wine glasses and anything else I could find until I couldn’t think of anything else I wanted.
Well, I left him one wine glass. I’m not a total bitch.
But I will add with a bit of smugness that I bagged all the liquor.
With every minute that ticked away, my gnawing fear that John would return due to forgetting his coffee or a canceled meeting faded. At about 8:30am, I got a rather clandestine phone call from an “Eric”. It turned out that Eric (his real name) was with Two Men and a Truck and wanted to know if the coast was clear, something they do for all the confidential moves. I informed him that that the “coast” was indeed clear, resisting the urge to add something like, “Team One, engage!”
At promptly 9:07am, they pulled into the driveway. Eric and his moving partner Ivan greeted me and had me give them a tour of every room in the house, making sure they knew what to load up and what to leave behind. And in a remarkably swift and organized fashion they got right to work, refusing my help to carry things. At one point I lamented out loud about how much I was going to miss the five burner gas stove in the kitchen – to which they offered to uninstall it and load it onto the truck. I considered it for a minute, after all it’s not like John ever used it. The cooking was always left to me, and when left to his own devices he just ate whatever microwaveable crap he picked up at the corner store. Hell, he probably wouldn’t even notice if I took it. But then I remembered the size of the storage unit I had rented and graciously declined their generous offer.
By 10:45am they were done, having loaded about 80% of an entire three bedroom house into their truck. Most of the furniture had been mine before I met John, and I wasn’t about to leave any of the nice stuff behind for he and his new bimbo to enjoy. Peering inside of the moving truck, I shook my head in disbelief. After having packed what seemed like an eternity of my possessions, it all took up maybe an eighth of the cargo area.
By noon, everything had been driven and loaded up at their respective locations. Despite the arctic January temperatures Eric and Ivan had remained super friendly and professional. Of course, I thanked them and tipped generously.
Soon I was pulling into the driveway of Larry’s house – my final destination and home until April. I unloaded my car, poured myself a glass of wine, stepped into my slippers and sat down to chill for the first time in far too long.
It was finally over.
The next morning I woke up from the best night’s sleep in a long time. I shuffled out of the bedroom and down the stairs without any dread as to who I would see. I wandered into the kitchen and made myself coffee and breakfast without feeling unwelcome or an annoyance to a man who once told me that I was his soul mate. I spent the day unpacking, hanging extra curtains and Skyping with my wonderful new online friend Matthias in Hamburg. After I had made my announcement about my plans to move to Germany, my longtime friend Patty introduced me to Matthias, stating that she wanted to be sure that I knew at least one good person there. This turned out to be a fabulous idea on her part, as he and I had a lot in common and would at times talk the night away. Tonight our conversation went on for over four hours, during which I gave him a tour of the visual candy that is Larry’s house.
Larry’s house, like the one I had shared with John and many others in Cleveland, was built in the early 1900’s. The original woodwork had been restored and meticulously kept up, and everywhere I turned there was something unique, colorful and interesting to see. Artwork, trinkets from his many travels to Asia, and memorabilia of famous musicians from his days as a concert promoter seasoned his house. I could have lived there for a whole year and still not have seen everything. But it was the overall positive energy of this place that made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. This was in such stark contrast to the unfriendly, hostile environment from where I had just escaped, and for the first time in too long I was finally enjoying some peace.
After I got off the call with Matthias, I decided to enjoy the tranquility some more and take advantage of Larry’s jacuzzi bathtub. I lit candles and put on the calming music of Poe and Garbage. Then I turned off the lights and sank my body into the hot bubbles, letting the jets pulse all over me. Backlit by the candles, I watched the steam rise off of my toes poking out from the foamy bubbles at the other end of the tub. It was great to not have to do anything, just relax. I realized how long it had been. Between packing and moving and carrying things up stairs and unpacking and go go go..this was the first time in what seemed like ages that I had actually stopped in my tracks and did something relaxing just for me. Not because I had to, not because if I didn’t do it I’d feel guilty or like I’m wasting time….simply just for me and my own sanity. And really, I needed it.
My mind then wandered to events of the past months, and the gravity of everything I had lost suddenly became like someone had set an anvil down on my chest. Tears stung my eyes as I heaved into a sob. Normally I’d make myself stop, but this was different. These were tears of relief, plus the realization that my 6 years with John were now quite officially done. There was no going back now. This time I just let myself go, alone in the dim candlelight with the foam and jet streams of the bath wrapped around me like a comforting hug.
Will I ever be happy again?