The bare venue

My partner found a different academic job so we have to move again. In the moments of departure, the home seems more than ever to become a theater. The show ended. The set must be struck. All the curtains come down. Only the bare venue is left. Was it ever really a “home” at all? Or was it actually a permanent art installation that abolished the gap between protagonists and spectators? It’s by leaving that you discover your clandestine attachments to a place. “Leaving town” is one of the only American rituals that I love. But it comes at a price, partly (and significantly) in cash, partly in letting go yet again of everything that had grudgingly become familiar: the best routes through tangled local streets, the smell of the sky, the detailed layout of the grocery store, the smiles of the pony-tailed mail carrier, the places where wildflowers grew in summer. In exchange for everything that was familiar about the everyday world, all you get is an abstract chance at a future. I remember with hallucinogenic clarity the August trees that bordered our block when we first got to Cleveland. It seems inconceivable that Faye was not there in the car, and ironic that she will never remember this place, except in whatever cryptic ways an infant can remember places.

Meanwhile, we haven’t let Claude see the house now that it’s all packed up — it’s being loaded as I speak into a moving truck. Yesterday he was interested in pictures of the piled-up moving boxes, and he understands that we’re about to move to Atlanta. But I can’t bring myself to tell him outright that he will never go back to the old house. Even though he’s thought about it in passing, it just seems too sad. Meanwhile, the teachers at Claude’s school have lately been almost in tears over his departure. It feels as if, by staying, they have more latitude to feel their feelings. It feels as if, by moving, you expose the precarious underside of attachment, which today feels not like numbness, but like vertigo.

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