Do you ever have those moments where you go, "Wait, what.* What was I thinking?" Of course you do. You're human, right? Even my cat Isabel has these moments. I can see it on her face sometimes after she has bit me ferociously on the wrist, when my only crime was catering to her lovey-whims. There's this look of shame, although it passes quickly, and then she often clomps away. Yes. This is also a cat who clomps. How did we manage that?
I have these moments a lot, living in my parents' house again after three years away. Regularly, I wonder what I was thinking to move back to what my father actually referred to last month as "the Napping House," this house where we eat our pathetic dinners amid piles of mail, and our good dinners often next to the growing mail mountain, which, if I am lazy about the table-"clearing" process, threatens to avalanche upon me and my well-buttered mashed potatoes. Then Isabel jumps up to attack the aloe plant through its space-age protection pod and line the rim of my water glass with her fur. No, that last bit's a lie. We don't put up with that shit, not while we're eating.
I wonder what I was thinking coming back here, knowing that the last time I lived here was so close to unbearable that I sometimes don't know how that May ever actually became August. August was okay, though, I think. The light at the end of the tunnel and all. I do know why I'm at home this time, when I stop to think, but knowing doesn't always help.
Another thing that brings this on is seriously cleaning my room—a task I avoided for at least as many years as I've been living elsewhere, but which feels essential considering I hope to make a clean break for my future one of these days, and I shouldn't leave a horrible path of fourth-tier half-rejected socks and unopened bank statements I never wanted my parents to give me anyway because that is what the internet is for, guys across my floor when I leave. Cleaning your room, at least when it is as densely packed as mine, reintroduces you to so many parts of your life you'd forgotten about. Or tried to forget about. Why did I used to wear this bizarre stripey no-button button-up-shirt (it had invisible hooks and eyes)? How come I kept so many ugly fabric scraps in a box in my closet since middle school? How could I allow myself to sing along to the Corrs playing on my long-ago abandoned stereo when other people could probably hear me? The Corrs. What was I thinking?
Everything I do reminds me that things were years ago and now I'm old. I know that I'm not actually old. But even looking back just three years, I see this girl. This girl is so much younger than I am. And I feel sorry for her, but I have this feeling that I can only barely understand her. There are wisps of things she said, and thought, and meant, and I remember them. But I couldn't say them or think them or mean them now.
It's like this photo I come across almost every time I interact with my bookshelves. Yes, interaction. These are some sentient bookshelves. (Lies.) It's sitting on a pile of classics my dad brought up from the basement for me one year, to this day still unread by me. It's in a frame. Today, I even picked it up when I was standing at that end of the shelf, and I noticed the glass was covered in dust. I took it apart and cleaned it off. I thought about taking the picture out of the frame, so I could put something else in it. But I noticed that the photo seemed to be sticking to the glass. And I don't really want to take that frame with me. It's not quite my style. I put the frame back together. And then I looked at myself, seventeen, standing at the edge of Lake Huron and smiling. The smile is so real. There are two of us, with the sunset behind, so our faces are shadowy. I think that's one of the reasons it's such a good picture. He wasn't very good at photos, or smiles.
I remember that this evening on the beach happened. There are photos. One of them is even on Facebook, so I click by it a few times a year. I remember that it happened. But I don't remember this photo. I can remember a month earlier, a little. I can remember what followed it, though I'd rather not. I can remember vague stretches of neurotic, stupid misery and also surges of happiness. I couldn't tell you why they happened, besides that I was young. And I was dumb. But this moment, this photo? I have no idea what I was thinking.
*I am not referring to the tumblr of the same name, of which I read more of the archives than I care to admit for days at a time.