Roommate Wanted: An Ad Posted by Memory
“Roommate Wanted,” apparently. My memory posted the ad without waiting long for a response from my conscious. The selection process had been surprising, mostly at the way I dragged my feet to decide.
I’m not sure if my hesitance was connected to the last time this happened. It didn’t seem likely since the two kinds of memories, including my feelings about them, were so distant from one another. Yet, one cast light on the other, like the cracked closet door that filtered sunlight through a tilting twirl of cobwebs. Organized would never mean the same as clean, but it did mean more space. Space for a roommate? Maybe.
“Roommate Wanted”. The first time that ad was posted, I was still in Guatemala. However, it wasn’t a public posting. By that I mean, an on again, off again relationship had ended for real, finally. Yet, the proposal, metaphorically at least, was that we could share space effectively since we had many relationships in common and often worked together. Roommates, practically speaking. From my perspective, even though that was the agreed upon arrangement, I would ‘arrive home to find particular doors locked’ or I would not be able to ‘use shared work areas’. Anger and resentment became threats. At one point a text arrived that stated, “You are ruining the good memories I have.”
The arrangement wasn’t working. It was time to move out altogether, and it gave me pause. As I packed, metaphorically, I allowed guilt to settle where dust had, until I realized that those memories were not mine. In fact, I was packing away objects that had never been mine. Choosing not to do so, simply left them where they laid on the floor. Remembering differently was not the same as breaking or tossing an item away. In fact, we had never remained ‘roommates’ and had lived apart for a long time with only our own boxes and not ourselves in the space. His box was filled with whatever he had put there and had never had anything to do with me. I removed one gifted item from my box and flung it over his. The other intangibles were probably unclaimed in a box somewhere on a curb next to a beeping pickup truck.
I moved out. I moved home, all the way home, to Wisconsin. My dad and I became roommates of a kind. Upon arriving, I found storage of all kinds full to the brim. Closets were a refuge for a long time for not addressing the harder to understand or categorize bits, but almost seven years later, I arrived at their doors. Still, closets also held a way of making me make room for more than just stuff.
As I sifted through some final cards, I discovered several letters from a childhood friend. This was a friend I lost track of in adolescence when relationships were never easy to bridge in the present much less past ones. Still, I had kept a framed photograph centered in a small collection. These images held great value because they held significant pieces of who I had seen myself to be at different times during my life. This framed photograph in particular exemplified the memory that was as fragile as the glass protecting the photo.
I had erred on the side of protection for years, never touching the memory. However, something about the discovered letters pushed me forward. I sent a message. “Roommate Wanted”. The ad was posted. The call was answered. And what now?
I received a response immediately. More than that the response was marked by interest in my offer. I remained guarded, though, at the idea that past and present ‘us’ would coexist successfully. I wanted to be careful, not too anxious, but not too slow. Yet, as the days passed, my fingers over smart phone keys not answering messages or withholding detail might well have been someone on a porch stoop or in a hallway, waiting, and me on the other side of a locked door, light flicked off, sliding down to the floor, back pressed to the wall to remain unseen.
“You are ruining the good memories I have.”
The warning from years ago crept in.
What if I ruined the good memories I had? He had? I breathed in and out new reasons for reassurance. Different people, different relationship, different amount of distance, but more importantly, a willingness to find middle ground, a use of closets that retained who we had once been to each other and definition of common spaces for who we are today.
No. “No,” I told myself. “Roommates are practical choices, and it’s nice to have someone to talk to at the end of the day.”
“Roommate Wanted”. I decided to confirm the acceptance of the posted offer.
No one picked up the phone. The message board had also disappeared. By the time I decided I could and should make space, the applicant had come and gone.