Margarita Gokun Silver | Longreads | April 2018 | 18 minutes (4,386 words)
On an afternoon in August 2017, I walk out of the library and turn right. At the intersection, the pedestrian light comes on and I cross knowing that once I reach the end of Madrid’s Plaza de Colón, I’d wait less than a minute before I could cross again. I’ve done this walk every day for the past several years, my pace synchronized with the rhythm of traffic lights; my mind concentrated on counting the stairs — 14 of them: seven for my right foot to ascend and seven for my left — and my hand clutching a euro to give to the old man selling tissues on the corner. Everything is the same — skateboards banging against the concrete under the quick feet of their teen devotees, dogs running around the middle of the square let loose by their owners, and, up above, a giant red-and-yellow Spanish flag flying in the wind. Everything but one thing.
I’m on my way to a home that’s no longer there.
A week ago the movers came and methodically went through our three-bedroom apartment. They wrapped our glasses, plates, vases, and the ceramic Don Quixote in bubble wrap. They encased our furniture in cardboard, bending the thick corrugated boxes patiently so that when they were done our couch looked like a mummy-copy of its former self. They sealed our artwork — most of it painted by me — in wooden crates that resembled well-insulated tombs. I wanted to ask if the art could breathe through the layers of paper, plastic, and wood, nailed shut so tightly that not a ray of sunlight could get through. But they were busy, and I didn’t bother them. Instead I went into what used to be our bedroom, lay down on the bed that wasn’t coming with us, and concentrated on my own breathing.
By my count, this was the 18th time I moved homes. Some of those moves were miniscule — just several miles away from where I’d lived, my belongings riding in the back seat of a car in milk crates and an old laundry basket. Others were more substantial — intercontinental relocations that involved wrapped furniture, sea freight, and customs bills. What all of them had in common — and what set them apart from this last one — was that they didn’t evoke grief. Sure, many had been tinged with goodbyes and sadness, but none before had stopped my heart, gelled the blood inside of my veins, and perforated my body with holes that seemed to allow life to seep right out of it.
None of those moves had felt like loss.