The House in the Middle
Mami has been decluttering. It’s time to toss some of it, she said. I still say hello to whatever is left when I visit. On the nineteen-minute drive to my parents’ house, I think of what potted succulent Papi will arrange for me this time. The collection on my balcony is growing.
I am rummaging through dusty photos, notes from friends, concert ticket stubs, and other miscellaneous things in my childhood bedroom. I left it at age twenty-one. Still a child. I am twenty-seven now, but I don’t feel like it. The candles I lit when I wanted to be cozy still smell the same: apples with pumpkin and spices, autumn leaves, and lavender. The signed bowling pin from when I left my first job has faded ink now, but the sentiment still lingers like lint on scotch tape.
The window calls to me and holds me there until my shoulders relax and my breathing quiets. The dry earth soaked up the heavy showers from the past two days, but it still smells like rain outside. The pink roses and DIY planters full of tiny succulents cradle leftover raindrops. I look around at my bed and my desk. My bookshelves and cork boards. They’ve changed. Less stuff. No more posters on the walls, and no more coins and receipts and old lip balm collecting dust on my dresser. If I only remember these things by seeing them, how do I know they’ll stay in my memories? Tucked into the part of my mind that I like to go to every now and then. If I toss or donate them, will they remember me too? By getting rid of them, am I throwing away the memory attached? That part of myself?
Like my old choir and prom dresses, I feel like I don’t fit into my room anymore. I’ve grown about three sizes bigger. I’m Alice when she becomes a giant. I’m surrounded by infantile and adolescent treasures: my first baby blanket with a pink panda, necklaces with crosses, frames of my high school graduation photoshoot with my best friends. Crop tops and fuzzy jackets with Tigger on the back. It’s been easy to bag up clothes that don’t fit me anymore. Especially the ones that I have no more desire to wear.
I look for mirrors everywhere, anywhere. Something with a reflection so I can see how much I’ve changed. Will the little girl I once knew look back at me and feel proud? Would she turn away or call Mami and Papi over to show them something? Someone she found and wants to keep.
Mami called sometime on the weekend and told me that she’d be going through our rooms—mine and my brothers’. One brother at home still has some dusty souvenirs on his shelves, while my eldest brother has full clothing racks and amps and guitars. I don’t want to hoard anything that you guys won’t miss, she said. Can I toss your old corsages? The ones from your school dances? Sure, I said. And we’re getting rid of your bed frame, too, she added. She wanted to make my room more suitable for anyone who is a guest. Fine, of course. I, too, think it’s time to clear some stuff out. Let the house breathe again.
But it seems like the hardest things to part from are on two ends of a spectrum. Opposites. Large and small. The Hershey’s Kiss-shaped jewelry holder made of glass. From Abuelita. The trinket box with pretty shells in the shape of a flower on the lid. Also from Abuelita. My metal bed frame with floral hardware design. It’s been mine since I can remember. I can easily take home the tiny, sentimental, and beautiful. Fill them with even more little memorabilia. Pass those on, possibly. Maybe. Can you get a tattoo of how it feels to hold a treasure in your hands?
But the bed frame that held me all day and night when I couldn’t face whatever haunted me outside. That comforted and healed me of illnesses. The one that kept me safe from the ghosts and demons and monsters and men I saw in my sleep. That carried all of my friends when they came over for Friday night pizza and movies. That soaked up my tears that my books couldn’t absorb. The bed that kept me warm in the winter and cool in the summer. That held both me and Mami when I didn’t want her to leave my side. When she sang me lullabies and gently stroked my eyebrows, eyelashes, and cheeks. That bounced when our dog would jump on me and lick my face in the mornings. This I know I must part with. I’ve said goodbye to things quickly and easily. Others I am still mourning. This bed will require a proper goodbye ceremony. One last jump. One more overnight stay. A final nap with no headache after. A reading session. A cry.
Another final moment where I leave one more thing behind. I thought I’d get used to it by now. You know, growing up and leaving stuff. But it’s a punch to the throat every time.
Megan Vasquez is a Mexican-American writer born and raised in Southern California. She has a bachelor of arts in English: Creative Writing from Cal State Long Beach and an MFA from Antioch University Los Angeles. While she writes mostly fiction, she loves reading other genres and practicing her poetry skills. When she’s not working on her first book of vignettes, she loves watching TV shows and films and playing with her Siamese mix kitten. Instagram: @meganomaly_