The door was unlocked when I reached it, behind the tall grass and tangled vines. Well… Unlocked isn’t the word. It was hanging open. The storm door was gone altogether.
I stepped through it into the kitchen. The ceiling tiles had started coming down. That figures. They had been stained from a leak even when I lived here. Good God… I Lived here. It was a lifetime ago. At least one man’s life.
I sighed into the empty air. There was no one with me. No one to speak to. No one to grieve to. No one to care.
The refrigerator we hadn’t had time or room to take with us was gone. Sold for scrap, undoubtedly, by the same people who had taken the stove and the sink out of the wall.
The wall, for that matter had holes in it, where they had tried to get the wires. Seems like a lot of trouble to go through for a few ounces of copper, if you ask me, but I suppose desperate people will do just about anything.
I went to close the door. I’m not sure why. Maybe some old habit, slow to die, even after all these years. They’ve taken the doorknob. What could a doorknob be worth? Maybe they needed to take it to open the door. The deadbolt’s gone, too.
I turned away from the door and saw that the metal frame of the kitchen table was gone, and its glass top was propped up against the wall. Almost carefully. It stuck out in the midst of the chaos of ruined cabinets and fallen insulation. One, lone, anachronistic piece of a life that didn’t exist anymore, delicately perched in the midst of a building that wasn’t home anymore. Not for me. Not for anyone else.
I moved on to the living room. They hadn’t taken the easy chair. Not surprising. It was the heaviest thing in the damned house besides the woodstove. I furrowed my brow for a moment… Could they have taken the woodstove?
I turned back and went to the sunroom. Moving hastily through the building like I owned the place… I did, technically. I found the little hearth we built for it sitting on the floor empty, but the stove was gone. I laughed out loud. That thing was a bitch to move. That meant there were at least two people. Not that it mattered.
I turned back and retraced my steps, back through the kitchen and into the living room. How chaotic my movements must appear to you, looking down. Like an ant whose hill has been smashed, scurrying to and fro. I am, I suppose, just that. I grew up in this house, and now… I stepped over a stuffed animal. A rabbit. I don’t remember his name. No one does, now, I guess. I made my way through the hall to my room. I couldn’t even see the floor under all of the old school papers scattered everywhere. My bed was moved like they tried to take it but gave up. The linens were gone. Funny… the things they take. The huge, out of date tv, for instance, was still there. This thing had to be twenty years old, and had to be worth something as scrap, I guessed, but nope. It was still here. I wondered for a moment if it would work if the power was on, but they had cut the power cord off the back. A few more ounces of copper.
I sat on the bed and looked at the paint peeling off the walls, and the mickey mouse sticker on the door, which was remarkably close to the way it had looked when I left it. No doorknob, of course. There wasn’t a doorknob left anywhere in the house. Are they really worth taking?
I walked down the hall to my “office”, which I had never used as an office. There was a door here that used to lead into the living room, but one of the owners before us had put in a new set of shelves in the living room, so the whole time we lived here this door opened up and there was a big plywood panel there. We used to laugh about it. We called it “The Door to Nowhere.”
I stood there and opened the door, and looked at the plywood. A door to nowhere. That described every door in this house now. If this were just one of my stories, it would be some kind of deep metaphor for the futility of looking at the past, but this isn’t just another story. I lived here. I grew up here. I laughed at this door, and I slept in that bed, and I called this place home, and it’s not anymore. Not ever again.
I stepped back out of the office, and down the hall. This time I see a frog next to the rabbit. I remember him. His name was Swampy. I remember when I was five years old, crying to my dad that we needed to rescue him from the grocery store. I remember coming out of Tae Kwon Do a day or two later, and Swampy was there in the passenger seat. Tears start to sting my eyes. I pick him up. The small rip in his arm has grown. The arm is nearly falling off. The paint has faded on his big plastic eyes, and now they are almost all white, when they used to have green irises and pupils. I hold him close like he is a child. If this were just a story he would be a metaphor for my youth and innocence that I left behind in this place, but this isn’t a story. I lived here.
I walk back through the kitchen with tears streaming down my face and a twenty-year-old stuffed frog cradled in my arm like a sleeping toddler, and I get in the car, and I drive away, without looking back. I get on the highway, and I never go back, but when I get home... I google how much doorknobs are worth as scrap.