Moving Day

I’ve finally finished yet another last-minute, poorly-planned move.  People laugh at me because I’ve only moved five times in my life.  I have no idea how the human soul can handle moving more than a dozen times, though.  Each move for me has taken years off my life.  I feel them sloughing away with each box, with each broken glass, with each piece of useless furniture rescued from the Dumpster and now an impossible weight up and down flights of stairs.

My first move was in the mid-90’s, when I picked up a nice place in Bethesda, MD.  Before the skyscrapers and the urban renewal, when Bethesda still had a Hot Shoppes and only had three useful bars.  When the city still had the old two-storey commercial districts with used book stores and bars that were dim and filthy and just beginning to see a ball-capped invasion of well-heeled whites.

I made good money at a high-pressure job where I had to meet two deadlines a day, every day.  And that included holidays.  Up early Christmas morning and away to PG County to get the AP wires out.  The news never stops.

Eventually, I was driven into the ground and I ran crying to live with my grandparents.  I left the high anxiety workplace and got a pointless customer service job that required about 5% of my attention and brain power.  It took me years to recover – I think I still am – and I found myself happily renting a back bedroom at the old family homestead and saving up enough money to take off at least three months of each year.

Back there, I wrote my lousy novel, and gave birth to a dream, and had enough fluidity in life and finances to wander foreign paths and become haunted by faraway places.

Then one day, a few years ago, my grandparents decided to return to the place of their birth to die.  (Their words, not mine!)  They told me in May they were thinking of moving and, then, in June,  two days before my early AM flight for a four week vacation in the UK, they told me they were leaving over the July 4th holiday and I had to be out by then.

I took the first good hit on Craigslist that wasn’t in a slum and moved in with a loon who constantly joked about hooking up with me, even though he also swore he wasn’t gay.  I shrugged it off, because it was a good financial deal, and lived under siege until the insanity came to a head and I packed everything up and fled once more.  This time to the slums, another good financial deal.  Illegally subletting an apartment from my corrupt co-worker.  For two years, I had to pretend I was a grossly overweight Palauan woman.  Not easy, let me tell you!  But I am now ready, between that act and my previous roommate, to travel with a performance troupe of drag queens.

The slum apartment looked good on the surface, but you didn’t even have to scratch to see the truth.  As ants and squirrels poured through giant gaps in the walls, and barefoot children in the parking lot smashed TV’s and computers and cars with sticks and pipes, every day was an adventure.  Averaging three meth lab busts a month, things started to get really bad when the shower wall caved in and sprouted enough mold to make a Katrina victim blush.  The place is Montgomery Paint Branch, by the way.   With a maintenance staff that does more damage than good, you’re taking your life in your hands if you move there.  I had to have my landlady call in maintenance at least once a month for everything from stopping the squirrel infestation to fixing the hot and cold water knobs in the shower, which had a tendency to fly off under the intense water pressure, slamming into your side or face and often followed by a blast of unstoppable hot water.  Of course, they rarely responded.

When the shower wall came down and they refused to even come by and look at it, it was time for yet another last-minute move.  Again I turned to Craigslist, and this time, with a girlfriend in tow, I upgraded to a place in an upscale community where there are no meth labs, and where maintenance responds to problems, and where I have not yet seen a running gun battle at 8am on a Sunday morning.

Living with a woman invites all sorts of strangeness into my life, but I’ve found it fulfilling.  Women may be crazy, but they’re damned good to look at.  No matter what happens, I know that, at least twice a day, I’ll have the chance to sit on the bed and watch her strip, and then bound around the apartment searching frantically for her favorite hair clip.  I make it a point to hide the hair clip in a new place each night before I go to bed, and can no longer imagine a morning that doesn’t involve at least 10 minutes of that wonderful nude search, then putting on her clothes, piece by piece, blowing fine blonde hair out of her eyes, and glaring at me.  Come evening, I’m on the edge of the bed with beer and popcorn, silently waiting for her to strip out of her work clothes and bustle around with her rituals and chores.  It’s like Meercat Manor without narration…and, uh, boobs.

With this new move comes, for the first time, a sense of growing up.  The reckless carpe diem philosophy gives way to that question people start asking once you hit junior high:  What do you want to be when you grow up?  Where do you see yourself in X number of years?

Questions asked, first, out of duty by adults who care or are unable to communicate with children.  Questions asked later by small people with small minds, as we all try to live vicariously through each other in these dark days of Service-Oriented America.  Questions I’ve never been able to answer.  When I was a child, I never pictured myself surviving to 18…to 21.  In college, I figured I’d be dead by 25.  In adulthood, I couldn’t imagine 30…35.

Now I sit at a table, eating a proper dinner off of real plates, and rarely drinking to excess, and balancing checkbooks, and paying attention to my retirement savings, and I can see myself at 40, at 50, and beyond.  Stooped shoulders and heavy parka at the seaside, fishing line out beyond the breakers.  A grey morning sometime in the 2040’s, steaming coffee from a thermos, no more future in front of me.

While I defy the question, it does now haunt me.  Where will I be at 40, in five years?

Right now, I can’t move from under the thumb of debt.  My foolish insistence to follow my dreams landed me with a company that only makes money if I harden my soul, cash checks quickly, and do nothing to truly further the art of writing.  Slowly I dig out from under the thirty thousand on the credit cards, shuffling madly from zero interest account to zero interest account and living my life down to the last penny, scratching and frantic day in and day out as I work half a dozen jobs towards the simple goal of zero balance.  No gain, no forward motion.

I’ve given myself five years.  Five years not only to pay off but to build up again, to revitalize all the parts of my life that have been lost to pain, to mistakes, to dreams, to bad friends and abusive lovers and poisoned family.

Then comes the next step. The next five years.  Do I see myself settling down in DC?  Coasting through my life always within 10 miles of the hospital where I was born?  I feel like I’m always running…and I feel like I’m always coming home.

Or do I leave DC?  Become a property owner in rural America – my constant threat.  Scrape by somewhere in Appalachia and living the alcoholic, satellite-TV, care-free life of the simple folk.  America’s Shire, long since scoured by loggers and King Coal, but still meekly sliding by along the side of the bypass.

The mountains have always called me.  Escaping into the simple life where entertainment comes in the form of driving in circles through town and spending welfare checks at Wal-Mart, or the local watering hole.  Clean, crisp mornings where the view is trees and desolation and not a parking lot or a city-scape.  Flee from the coppery city rain drizzling on vomit-stained sidewalks, from the hatred and anger on the streets, from feral children and screaming mothers, from a train car full of 100 shouted cell phone conversations, and from a thousand distrustful glares a day.

Or do I go for the larger goal?  Leave the country?  I can see myself in Scotland, in the north of England.  I can see myself in Brasov, Romania.   These places that haunt me, and that draw me back again and again.  Why spend all those tourist dollars when I could turn those destinations into home?  Shake off everything – the bad memories of childhood, of deadbeat friends, of mistakes and pain.  Start fresh among strangers, out of the culture of decadence and buckets of chicken fat.

The possibilities roll around my head as I watch a naked woman toss the apartment in search of a tiny, metal butterfly clip.  My future decades rolling back to this one point, this one blonde, this tiny condo in the suburbs of my home, packed boxes piled around, and moving day still a fresh pain in my back and my checkbook.


  1. Disco Dust
      August 15, 2009

    So, you have both a new pad and a steady blonde squeeze? Things are surely looking up for Nacho in 2009.

  2. nacho
      August 15, 2009

    Yep, life is new and beautiful. Which means a piano is going to fall on my head any day now.