When you first came to help your sister Stacy move, you hadn’t been in your hometown in a decade. When she called to ask for your help, you had been 6 states over and were squatting/living? with some girl who worked in a coffee shop and read the horoscopes every morning. She liked your beard, and that’s probably all she liked about you, as you really didn’t have that much going on. So much so, that when you left to head back home, you hadn’t felt the need to let her know. While she was at work, you simply grabbed your coat from the couch, and got in your car.
Stacy had moved into this apartment over a few humid days in July. The thick, wet, air allowed the fresh paint smell to linger for practically a month. You remember the scent distinctly from the week you spent sleeping on her couch after you arrived. Her sister, also your sister, Bridget, had come only once to visit in that first month, and had come only once to visit her ever. Bridget had said she didn’t mind the paint smell. Bridget also likes the smell of gasoline, so why would she mind?
It’s 6 years later, and it’s the second time Bridget has been in this apartment. You and she are standing in Stacy’s bedroom, and you are fighting. She is insisting that the pair of earrings she is holding in her hand are rightfully hers. She says Stacy took them from her when everyone was home for your father’s funeral last year. That had been the last time the three of you were in the same room together.
Now it’s just the two of you in Stacy’s apartment. Bridget’s face is all blotchy red as she yells at you with her fists clenched tight around the jewelry. This is the kind of petty shit that is so Bridget. She paces back and forth within the room while she spews her bitter argument in a manner that sounds more like grinding metal than it does speaking. You haven’t seen her since your dad passed, and before that, what, 6 years? She still sounds like the bratty teenager you grew up with. No matter how much time passes, no matter how long you go without seeing her, she’s still the same Bridget.
In reality, you stood beside Stacy 6 months before she moved in, in front of a glass cased counter when she bought the earrings herself. They were small, and round, and if someone had asked you what they looked like before you saw them in Bridget’s hand, you wouldn’t have remembered. But you’re looking at them now, and it’s like you're back in that shitty corner store, freezing your ass off, and thinking, “Stacy, hurry up.”
That had been the last time you and she had travelled together. Stacy made the effort at least once a year or two to come meet you wherever you were and spend a week in your nomadic lifestyle. How she could remain living in the town where the three of you grew up was beyond you. You couldn’t stand that place; the streets, the houses, the people. To you, every aspect of that town was like a ghost of your adolescence that you did not need hanging around. You shed it as soon as you could and hit the road. Somehow, Stacy never seemed to mind. Did she really not remember, or god, was she that good of a person that she could fight her demons that way? As a kid she always seemed happy. As an adult she always seemed blissfully ignorant.
You’re thinking of your childhood now while you stand watching Bridget yelling in Stacy’s room. Stacy’s bedroom is so tidy it’s immaculate. Stacy’s whole apartment is immaculate, like she never even ever lived there ever. There are no dishes in the sink, no laundry in the hamper. As Bridget continues her rant, your eyes stray from the desk to the chair to the duvet cover. You know you unpacked all of this stuff, but you don’t recognize anything.
You know how when you drive the same road enough times, you can anticipate every curve, every pothole? The same applies when you travel enough different roads. Every curve is the one you just passed, every pothole is the one you avoided 6 weeks ago. When you had pulled off the exit onto the main street of your own hometown, it looked the same as all the ones you’d driven through on the way there.
Bridget’s bickering fades out as you realize Stacy’s apartment looks like any other one you’ve ever been in. Your eyes are darting as you struggle to find something to tell you, Stacy was here. Stacy is not here. You leave the bedroom and rush through the hallway to the living room, the kitchen, the bathroom. You’re opening drawers and doors and overturning cushions and crying – god are you crying?! You hold paper in your hand, dishes, towels. You’re looking for her but you know she’s not there and it won’t ever be again.
You wipe your face with your hand and choke back the guttural sound you feel crawling inside of you. Bridget is in the room again with you now. You can’t understand what she’s saying and you can’t even make out her face completely, but you know it’s Bridget because who the fuck else would be yelling on a day like today?
You walk out the front door. You do not say goodbye. You get in your car, and you drive.