This is technically breaking-and-entering, although I don’t think my old landlord would mind. I know where the key is hidden. I know everything about this place: the way the ceiling sags and the floorboards squeak; the way the pantry closet never closes all the way.
Tonight, there is only the shape of myself and the moonlight streaming in. I cast shadows on the walls as I write this. I haunt this place. It still smells like me here—bergamot, vetiver, and the Dragon’s Blood incense I used to burn as I’d sit on the porch, writing love poems, with the green door cracked open.
I used to be alive in this little house.
As I exhale, there is an echo that means my lungs are still expanding and collapsing. Even after the year we stopped breathing. I know this means I should be grateful, and I am, but I am also other things. I feel more at home in the house I used to live. Embracing my new space means chronically unpacking who I will become. I am not ready to know her yet. I am not ready to accept this new person.
Change arrived on our doorsteps, demanding we surrender our old lives—that we somehow move forward whilst standing completely still. In some ways it was good for our soul searching; in some ways it felt like a fever dream. It’s been over a year and a half since the pandemic started, and I am still in a haze. I haven’t been full in my limbs, hands, and feet since May of 2020. I can’t appease my own primitive desire to claw back to the self I knew before. Nothing is recognizable.
Everyone I know is settling down and starting families. It just seemed like the right thing to do. While their weddings were postponed, those who weren’t having babies took advantage of the mid-pandemic market, sold their houses, and moved far away from here. We stay in touch, but the months bleed together, then we forget what there was to talk about. Everything has happened in the midst of the wild nothing—I’ve lost track of the days.
I used to have friends. Lots of them. Now it just feels like they live in a computer screen. What is no longer completely virtual still feels far away from me. The vaccination should have helped us—should have revived the creative scene; made it safe for us to see live music; awakened the art crawl that now just feels like wandering through an empty maze. This is our new normal. It is the silhouette of something we used to know that is entirely foreign.
When the world stopped, we slipped into a drugged, sleepy season of malaise. Urgency was no longer our master, and we drifted through time and space. Now we come awake again and face the vacancy, grieving that nothing will ever be as it was.
I used to be a warmly lit house with paintings on the walls—full of friends, yummy food, and laughter. Now I’m a house with nobody in it. I played pretend for as long as I could—created more content than I could curate, began more paintings than I could finish, produced a podcast in the winter—just to remember the sound of myself. It wasn’t enough to revive her—she is somewhere, back there, and I can’t find her.
So, in the middle of the night, I collect the last quilt my grandmother stitched with her hands, I slip on my soft-soled moccasins, and I drive into the quiet corners of my old neighborhood. I am careful to not wake the neighbors, I fiddle with the lock, and I sleep here. It’s the only place I can find relief. It’s strange, I admit—to break back into this old house; to pick the lock on the past for a moment of release.
Amid a world
That is lonely and quiet
I access the self
Who was stolen from Me.
Autumn Jade Monroe is a ghostwriter, mixed media artist, and hip hop instructor living in Nashville, TN. She has a penchant for poetry, podcasting, and guzzling red wine. In her spare time she enjoys reading books on philosophy and creativity, and napping with her fat, grey cat, Ello.