For almost two years, I have told myself that the jagged lump of limestone in my stomach was normal. Back and forth to Chicago more times than I can count for business, family, or friends, I can see now they were also attempts to either convince myself I was no longer in love with the city or to make sure it was still there. Because maybe I’d be back one day.
It’s one day. It’s time to go home.
I wasn’t looking for a fresh start. An adventure developed in 2014 and I rode that horse because riding horses is what I do. I don’t want a medal for it; frankly, I’d like someone to yank me off the damned thing half the time. My move to New York City was an experiment and the result was unacceptable. Exiled from Chicago because there were tenants in my home, I went to Washington to wait them out; when it came time to return to Illinois, I realized I wanted to stay with Washington at least a little while longer. I absolutely made the right decision. I’m not sure what I was looking for, but I found it. Someday I’ll know what it was, but I don’t know now.
So what happened?
About a month ago, I put my condo on the market. I cannot, will not be a landlady another year. It’s a terrible job, but there’s no way I can afford to live anywhere else without renting my Chicago home. But no more. No more Mary Management Co. My love for Washington was total enough to see myself relocating there permanently, so I called the real estate agent who sold me the place. We filled out all the forms.
The moment the listing went live, a gorilla sat on my heart. It was awful. “It’s normal, it’s normal,” I told myself. “This is what happens when you sell a home, when you leave a town; it’s emotional.” I’d think about someone owning my keys for good, about trading that beautiful space for numbers in my bank account. I’d think about never walking down Wabash Ave. again, thinking about what I was going to make for dinner. My hand would move to my mouth and I’d squeeze my eyes shut. It wasn’t right. It wasn’t right. It was wrong. It was wrong. Unless it wasn’t, and this was just the way these things feel. I would swallow hard and go back to whatever it was I was trying to do. I would do that thing poorly.
Home in Iowa to tape TV, I was sitting at the kitchen counter in my mother’s house eating a carrot-apple salad. No one was home. There was no radio on, no television. I wasn’t reading a magazine or anything online. I was just eating my salad in silence and all of a sudden, I sucked all the air from the room into my lungs and let out a terrible, pathetic sob. I pushed the salad away and vaguely remembered the now-defunct website, CryingWhileEating-dot-com, which was amazing. My body crumpled and I put my head down on the counter and wept like someone had died.
After some minutes into this private ugly-cry (the best sort of ugly-cry there is), I realized what I wanted more than anything on this Earth. “I wanna go home,” I whispered into my wet sleeves. “Please, please let me go home now.” That’s when I decided to move back.*
The condo is delisted. When I get home, I will take a bushel of toothbrushes and use them to scour every inch, every centimeter of that place until it shines like the top of Willis Tower.
*The other reason to return is to be near my doctors. They’re putting this sentiment in writing for the management company of my building as we deal with the breaking of the lease. Nothing like a letter from a surgeon.