I don’t know when the room stopped being blue. I think it happened while I was in high school, when the room wasn’t being used as much. Mom thought it needed a facelift. The blue paint was replaced with floral wallpaper—hydrangeas with little green leaves. But we never stopped calling it the blue room.
We called it the blue room because it wasn’t quite a den, it wasn’t the living room, and it never fully became a storage space. “Just put it in the blue room,” became a well-known phrase in our family. When I was in elementary school, my parents filled a wardrobe in the room with art supplies and I used to paint watercolor oceans while sitting on the sun-warmed wooden floor.
Mom and I once spent an afternoon rearranging the furniture in the blue room. We cleaned out the shelves filled with everything from second grade spelling homework to forgotten about stuffed animals. At the time, we thought that if we cleaned up the room, which had become the family dumping ground for anything that didn’t fit in any other room in the house, we could make better use of it; it could be a place to relax, watch television, use the exercise bike gathering dust in the corner.
On the morning of the move I walked from room to room, saying goodbye to each space. I thanked our terracotta-colored kitchen where I learned to cook. I told the blue room I was sorry I stopped hanging out there after middle school ended. I opened every empty drawer in the bathroom I shared with my older brother and wished they were still filled with bottles of roll-on glitter and cracked palates of pale foundation.
I saved my bedroom for last. I stood in the center of the rectangular room, my feet covering a stain in the cream carpet. My mom tried to convince me against the pale color, knowing how stained it would become, but I insisted. Cream carpet and butter yellow walls and a twenty-year-old girl trying to say goodbye to a room without feeling like she was saying goodbye to the life lived within it.
I wanted so badly to sit down. But I knew if I did, I wouldn’t be able to pry my body from the floor to walk down the stairs and out the front door (but we never use the front door) and into the packed car where my dad was waiting, impatiently, to drive me away from our home for the last time and drop me back at school where I was living for the summer because I wanted to, but also because the rental house wasn’t ready yet so my family was technically homeless.
I stood in the center of the room and couldn’t think of anything to say besides goodbye and I’ll miss you, and when I said “I’ll miss you,” I started crying despite how hard I had been trying to keep the sadness in the back of my throat where it was aching to come out.
The car was packed with everything we couldn’t fit into boxes, including our cat, who was perhaps the most traumatized by the move. My dad thought it was a good idea to let him out of his crate during the drive, and he immediately crawled under the front passenger seat and got stuck between two metal bars. He moaned deeply and quietly until we were able to pull over and get him back into his crate, where he continued to cry out in misery for the rest of the drive.
“He just needs time, he’ll adjust.” Dad said without taking his eyes from the road. I mumbled my response, no longer able to control the burning-hot tears blurring my vision and streaking my face with salt.