Heart and Home

I have my own life

And I am stronger

Than you know

But I carry this feeling

When you walked into my house

That you won't be walking out the door

-Stevie Nicks

A poster from a show by a small-time metal band I've never seen hangs in my spare room. It's of a conquistador skeleton on an abstract background, a gift from an ex-boyfriend that remains one of the single best gifts I've ever received. He correctly guessed my favorite from all the posters wheat pasted to the wall of the only good music venue in town. There aren't many relics in my house from the boys who have come and gone. For one, none of them are saints, and for another he's the only one I'll always love a little.

Relationships are rooms occupied by the people involved. At best, they are decorated by two individuals deeply in love and precisely in sync, each bringing artifacts from their pasts and treasures from their hope chests. These are the homes decorators would call "organic" rather than "curated," warm and welcoming with a feeling of family and history and habitual use. At worst, the room is littered with the clutter of the past, with exes like awkward rocking chairs built for worry and stubbing your toe on in the dark. These rooms can be entered into together, or can merely be a corner of your larger life that someone strays into briefly for a time. The moment someone walks in the door can be as significant as when Stevie Nicks first met Lindsey Buckingham at a California high school party. The moment someone walks out can feel as devastating as Sid Vicious leaving Room 100 at the Chelsea Hotel.

I bought a little orange bungalow a few months ago after the breakup of a one-year relationship. I didn't know it at the time, but realized weeks later I went through with the sale because I was tired of waiting. I was tired of waiting on love, tired of waiting to come home. For ten years I've believed in the Bruce Springsteen fantasy that love begins on the run and ends in a promised land. If love was true, my man and I would build something beautiful and immovable. We would be pioneers finally settling on the edges of the prairie, our farmhouse still standing one hundred years later as a cathedral to toil and love.

My exes and I, we conducted our relationships at our parents' houses, in dorm rooms and dingy apartments, in the homes of roommates and past and future lovers. We went to coffee shops and concert halls, back seats and brewhouses, tawdry motels and smart downtown suites in distant cities. I've been so many places with these boys, everywhere but home. We've never built anything to last. I signed lease after lease, keeping my options open, staying purposely rootless in case love needed me to take root somewhere else. After a decade of living in other people's homes, I was tired. I was tired of waiting for someone to join me when I could build something special for myself. I was tired simply of waiting at all.

My house was built in 1920. It has a low front porch and a small front yard, perfect for the Southern pastime of porch-sitting and saying hello to passing neighbors. Its windows are the original wavy glass, distorting your view in the most delightful way, casting rainbows on the bedspread in the afternoon. Though it's not a large house, it gives you a sense of wandering, the layout takes a meandering path that is satisfying to walk through. The rooms are square and comforting, but are well-sized. In other words, it is perfectly proportioned for a young, single professional and a small grey cat who are tired of tiny apartments and short relationships.

This is a house that has known many long and happy lives, some of which probably began and ended on the premises. I have a hard time imagining inviting a lover here because this house is so entwined with myself that merely asking someone to cross the threshold would be an immensely intimate act. Relationships are rooms we build together, a delicate architecture that may or may not stay in fashion or up to code, that may one day be razed to make room for something new. Whether physical or metaphoric, we all need shelter, a place to imprint upon and that can mark us in return.

In the back of my house, as in the back of my mind, is this solitary souvenir from a place and time with the boy who made the biggest impression. It hangs on the wall, mixed in with pieces of my childhood and young adulthood and hand-me-downs from my parents. This place is mine now, filled with my small personal history. This house and I are making an impression on each other day by day. We are taking up more and more space within one another. To simply have room for my things, to pick out paint colors and spread out while I cook, my pulse maintains a slower pace. At night I lay in bed and listen to my favorite albums, in case the house has not heard them before. Sometimes it sings back, creaking and whistling as it settles and adjusts to changes in temperature and weather. I play it love songs, and in return it sings me lullabies.

There is the architecture of a relationship, but also a relationship with architecture. This house is more than its plaster lath walls and sloping heart pine floors-- it is where I first invested significantly in my relationship with myself. Perhaps one day someone will walk in, see what I've built, and decide to add on, to mix their things and history with mine. Perhaps he and I will move on somewhere new together, seeking a new frontier. Perhaps this is simply where I was meant to be alone, but not lonely. One thing’s for sure, if a day does come that someone walks into my house, I carry a feeling they won't be walking out the door.

There aren't many relics in my house - Skye Bacus