Read "Part one: Moving on." here. Who doesn't love context? I'm sitting, freezing in pajama pants and bare feet, in the middle of an empty room. Nearly empty, anyway. Here with me: a tiny turquoise table, a little white lamp. A scented candle. A framed family photo. A failing, droopy potted amaryllis. BlackBerry, MacBook. Armchair, ottoman. But the echoes and chill that fill the rest of the space are like a black hole, slurping up the light and warmth.
A week and a half ago, the Knight and I wandered into this space, even emptier then than it is now. It's one flight of rickety wooden stairs down from my current apartment, across a breezeway that reeks of stale cigarettes and cooking, musty winter air mixed with warm dryer-sheet breeze. I've looked at this apartment hundreds of times as I hurried downstairs to leave for work. Through the ripped screen and a seemingly sturdier door, someone else was living out a life I'd never be party to. But now? The door, left unlocked, barely stays shut. The locks have been rendered useless by endless coats of cheap white paint, a hopeful attempt to look new for prospective tenants.
Inside, the kitchen looks almost identical to mine but for a few tweaks. Different cabinet placement. Newer oven. Shorter refrigerator. Higher ceiling. And a pantry so big I could sleep in it. Really. An air mattress would easily fit in there. And that's when the trouble started: when I turned around to open that door for the first time, not knowing what lay behind it. My eyes widened, and the shelves instantly filled with ingredients, appliances, cleaning products. An entire shelf was dedicated to baking supplies, different kinds of flour, spices, a cherry-red KitchenAid stand mixer I don't yet own, bright and cheery against the crisp white walls. My yellow Dyson in the corner, brooms and mops clipped to the empty wall with those brackets the Knight has a strange love for. I did a little dance on the tired linoleum, quickly opened the pantry's drawers to reveal the sunflower-print contact paper liner. I danced a little more.
I pulled myself away from the pantry; we fumbled for light switches as we moved through the rest of the rooms, the floorboards creaking and our footsteps reverberating. Every room was mostly like my apartment but somehow completely foreign. The new light fixtures still had tags on them; a fine layer of dust covered the floors. The bathroom has awful lighting, awful pink-and-black tile, an awful blue shower liner curtain hanging limply from a tension rod. The shelves of the old medicine cabinet are probably covered with a film of old Tylenol, contact solution and toothpaste. But there's a linen closet. I couldn't sleep there, but it'll do. In my mind, there are stacks of towels and spare sheets along the bottom; medicine in the middle; replacement toiletries and travel kits on the top shelf. The towels are thick and warm from the heat of the radiator, grey to match the shower curtain that lives in the Knight's bathroom. For now.
The space is massive. Furniture can take up plenty of room in the end, but there's no mistaking the size of this place. I confused the dining room for a living room until the Knight shouted from what seemed like a mile away, "No…I found the living room." Past the bathroom and through a hall is the entryway, which leads into the rest of the apartment. A tiny coat closet with a mirrored door and shelves above the rack too high to reach, easily past the top of the door. Two bedrooms, nearly identical in size with just slightly different proportions from where I sleep now. In one, my little bed covered with a brown and cream quilt, warm yellow pillows and a menagerie of stuffed animals. We'd be stocked up on board games and Polly Pockets and always ready for visiting kids needing entertainment and a place to sleep. The Knight's desk in the corner would be covered with framed photos of his daughters, next to a bookcase full of fiction books. In the other room, a new brass bed and his queen-size mattress. With a fluffy red comforter cascading over the sides and Gunther perched proudly next to a pile of soft pillows. His old mirror hanging over my dresser, my jewelry box and perfume bottles mixed with his spare change and little curios. I'd sleep soundly.
Then, the living room. So similar to mine. Long and elegant, with the same Art Deco molding on the walls. A radiator at one end, flanked by a beautiful bay window overlooking the park I've spent two and a half years longing to overlook. I hear his stereo playing, the electric hum of a TV on mute, footsteps against rugs and carpet remnants as homemade spaghetti sauce on the stove fills the space with red wine, roasted tomato and fresh herbs.
In my mind, I was already unpacking. Wedging my clothes into closets among his, splitting a dresser down the middle, hanging my photography next to his paintings.
But God. We'd talked about moving in together — in October, when both our leases were up. Long after our one-year anniversary. Time enough for my family to come around a little more, for our finances to settle, for his ex-wife to get a little less crazy. Not in March. That was the real crazy. But what if those things didn't quite happen by October? What if family never comes around. What if we're sort of broke for a long time? And his ex-wife, well, she'll likely be crazy forever. If that perfect convergence didn't happen, would we be stuck wondering what might have happened if we'd taken the leap? Would I be stuck wondering who'd set their imaginary KitchenAid mixer on a shelf in the pantry that should have been mine?
So a week ago, we just…decided. With some trepidation, we decided to move in together. Love is all you need, right? We signed the lease, sealed it in an envelope and left it for my — our — landlord last night. As promised, he left the door unlocked for me to start moving my things. And tonight, while I waited for the water for my macaroni and cheese to boil, I spent 15 minutes trying to fit an oversized armchair through two undersized doorjambs. So that after I finished dinner, I could write my first blog entry about my new home…in my new home. Our new home. And now, here I am. Sitting, freezing, in this empty room that's about to be filled with all kinds of life. And love. For now, all I can do is fill it with words on a page and the few things I can get down the stairs myself. But the Knight just poked his head through the kitchen door and called out to me; he brought me a blanket, plus his laptop and a guitar, down from my little apartment, which will soon be filled with someone else's life. New memories. Maybe even new love. In our new place, he's playing "Angie" on his beautiful Gibson acoustic, filling the empty room with E-minor and his soft, low voice. I'm home already.