I wander around an empty apartment. There are just remains now. A couple of hangers in a closet, reminders that once there were clothes there; a small basket used as a catch-all in the bathroom; a paperclip on the floor; an old telephone, the local telephone directories which are still in their cellophane wrapping as no one uses them anymore. The bookshelves are empty except for a small pile of books supposedly destined for my general doctor but never delivered. In the corner, a plastic waste basket holds a wilting flower from the arrangement a friend brought a couple of days ago as a goodbye gesture. A green glass cup, left in the apartment by its previous owners over 9 years ago and today holding an odd array of pens picked up in diverse hotels and courses over the years sits on the computer table no one bought, now a forlorn item in the middle of the empty studio. The sofa-bed I have been using seems lost, cowering against the wall of the spacious and empty bedroom. In the bathroom and old towel still serves its original purpose and will find its way into the trash can by tomorrow.
From each window, the views I have loved and that have marveled me over and over, greet me now with their unending inventiveness, never the same. The trees have lost their leaves, an occasional jay in its black and white tuxedo perches on the bare branches and then takes flight again; the grass in the rear garden is brown, In the background, the clouds paint grays, whites and pinks against a bluing sky.
I am leaving. Less than 48 hours to go. The stormy weather that threatened to detain me in Madrid more time is opening, showing patches of blue through the black clouds that no longer release their rain and the window in the weather that I prayed for is arriving just in time.
Strangely enough, a poster showing downtown Salies, the river Saleys and the ancient church tower hangs lonely on the wall of the studio. Now that I know the town better, the poster itself seems dark in comparison to the bright colors and sunny atmosphere that reigns there most of the time. The poster will not go with me: I have no longer any use for it.
Salomé’s toys are strewn around the hall and living room. She sleeps in sight of me; alert most of the time since seeing the suitcases come out. I am glad her anguish will soon be over when she leaps into the front seat of the car with me knowing finally that I am not leaving without her.
In the kitchen a pile of old plastic plates, red and blue, bought for some distant Xmas party when I invited all the people I knew who didn’t have family here to come and share the Eve at my house, will serve if any more meals are to be eaten here. But that is unlikely because the one remaining frying pan and small pot have been stored in the last carton to carry kitchen stuff. The cooking utensils, -spatula, soup ladle, stirring spoon- still hang on their rod on the wall. I will buy new for my new kitchen. They’ll stay there until someone throws them out or gives them a new home.
The drawers in all the cupboards and closets are empty, double checked; the door to the wall safe in the closet is open and the key is in it so that the new tenants can learn how to open and close it (I have left them the combination). The items that no one wanted stand in front of the window on the glassed-in terrace off the living room: a cluster of things that will find their way eventually into the piles at Emaus or in the home of someone who has no idea where they have come from or who their previous owner was.
I sit in an empty apartment. It is time for the goodbyes, time to say thank you again and again. I have lived here in peace and joy mostly. I have grown emotionally and spiritually in this home, this beautiful, light-filled space that has held me for over 9 years. I realize how important it is to say goodbye to each room, each corner that has offered me its sharpness, each yard of flooring that has held my feet over and over, each inch of wall space that has watched me pass once and again. There is a sweetness in the goodbyes because they are filled with gratitude for something that is mine and can never be taken away. This space, as all those in which my life has unfolded, is forever a part of me. Just as I can still see the bedroom where I slept and had nightmares and heard stories from my father in distant New Canaan when I was barely 7 or 8, and the first house we had in Mexico when we moved with its enormous living room and the balcony and the concrete banister I used to slide down, just as the first house we lived in when I got married, or the apartment where my son was born, or the lovely house in the Pedregal where I had my daughter, or the small house where I lived out the first years after my divorce… every space in my life that has held me, I now hold in myself, in my memory, in the images which linger and can be revisited. Nothing can leave me: it doesn’t have that power. And this apartment too, where I have lived the 9 years of my alone time, where I have learned to be with me in joy and acceptance, this too is now mine forever. When there is real love and deep gratitude, we need hold on to nothing. It is time to set this space free. Soon the voices of children will fill the hall where Salomé used to chase her balls, and a man’s work will take place in this very room where I am now writing the final piece.
Thank you Rodriguez Marin 69, Thank you Madrid, Thank you Spain. Hasta pronto.