Learning to Let Go

12 June 2017 at 22:22 (Random Randomness) ()

A Short Story

It was a little over two years ago that I returned to my home town after many years’ absence. Walking down my old street, I stopped outside my childhood home, noticing the For Sale sign.

On the outside, at least, it was mostly the same. Money had been tight when we lived there, and the paintwork wanted redoing, the pebble-dash had chipped off, exposing the brickwork. Now, the new owners had restored the old Victorian terrace to its former glory, no longer the shame of the street.

I gazed up at all three floors, remembering. I felt a longing, a pining, to spend a few minutes in my place, to experience a small taste of my former happiness, to feel, just for a moment, that simple childhood innocence.

I was only 11 when we’d moved. I wasn’t really sure why; money, I think. It was all very sudden, and I didn’t deal with the change well. I liked stability, familiarity. Needed it. I’d spent a lot of time in my room, my safe haven. I’d never been able to get emotionally close to anyone. I had siblings, cousins, but I could never relate to them all that well. There was always this gulf between us; I didn’t understand their ways, they didn’t understand mine. If something upset me, I would take to my room, the one place I could truly be myself, where I was never judged, never made to feel like a misfit. It was my own space, my sole friend who rejoiced with me, learned with me, wept with me.

When we moved, I had to share a room with my sister, she took it over, it was her place, and I was a stranger once more. I no longer had the comfort my room had given me, I couldn’t deal with negative feelings well anymore. They said I had behavioural issues, and took me to doctors.

Now I was back. Welcome home, old friend, the house seemed to say. I felt an ache in my heart. It would not be on the market forever, I would likely never return here again. Would I want to spend the rest of my life regretting losing the chance?

***

I was able to arrange a viewing that very afternoon. The previous occupiers had already moved on, and the place was mostly stripped of furnishings. The new double-glazing muffled the hum of traffic from the main road, isolated us.

Looking around, it was different. Of course the décor had changed, I’d expected that, but what I hadn’t expected was just how thoroughly the house would be gutted.

The old wooden staircase, with its creaky boards and worn carpet, was replaced with a spiral stairwell of laminated glass and cold, hard, shiny chrome. The front room and living room had been merged into one; picture perfect, sterile, hard corners. Even the garden was stripped bare, the lawn replaced with a barren patio, the plants replaced with decorative pots and willow sculptures. The warmth, the life, that had once permeated the very walls was gone, replaced with this shiny newness, silence, stifling. My parents had bought the house for £50,000 back in the 70s. Its asking price was nearly a million now. It was too good for me.

My pulse began to race as I made my way up to the top floor, where my old bedroom had been. The one place in all the world I had felt completely secure, where I had been accepted, cherished.

I knew, even as I placed my hand on the door handle, that it had been a mistake. I snatched my hand away, as though I’d been stung. I didn’t want to see, didn’t want to know. I wanted to keep it in my heart the way I remembered it.

This house belonged to someone else now. It was not my place anymore, however much of the old structure remained, however similar it looked on the outside. The old house was there, deep down — but too deep down. Essentially lost forever, for no one would want to put the effort into reverting it to its old charm.

I cried a tear. Of course I did, but just the one. It’s always a mistake to revisit the past, to expect things to stay the same. As if the house that I loved could ever love me back.

I made my way to the front door, lesson learned. Let the past stay in the past.

I didn’t look back.

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