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Breaking Loose

by MISSY BEATTIE

Laura and I spent the day looking at property in Carroboro/Chapel Hill.  For me, there’s only one address in the area—a green design with retail on the first floor. Laura’s search is focused on something with a well, a pond, and garden space—city mouse and country mouse.

I’m here, there, and everywhere but mostly thinking that nothing’s right. I look at spaces in this building, with balcony floors made from recycled tires, and I can’t see anything but question marks. I try to picture the person I am, whoever that is, putting away groceries, opening the fridge, sitting outside on that lovely outdoor area, entertaining family and new friends (extrovert I am). But I observe someone displaced.

The sales representative explained the terms as I pretended to listen. There are sentences of information I care nothing about hearing.  When this happens, I float. Fine, today, because Laura and Hunter were with me.  Catching something, I’d ask a question after which I drifted again. My mind is scattering slivers, a fireworks display.

Last week:

Did it—listed my condo with a real estate agency.  And since Laura, Erma, and I are a trio, they’re selling, too. There’s both excitement and trepidation.  Because this is the first time I’ve moved without Charles in more than 35 years, and it’s also the first time I’ve made a decision to move without knowing my destination.

The broker’s open is this week.  Broker’s open.  I stare at that term and think, “Broken open, breaking open.”  I want to feel I’m breaking loose.

I go to the girls or they come to me for dinner and we talk about this.  “Where are we going?”  What will we find?

After writing the above, my agent called.  “Missy, someone wants to see your place at 2:00 today.”

I quickly tidied bathrooms, put away this and that, took something I couldn’t place neatly in a closet and threw it in the back of the Lesbaru.  And then I sat in the car, parked just down the block. Just sat in the car.  I looked across at the sidewalk where Charles walked when we moved to Baltimore in 2007 after his diagnosis.  I used to peer from a window and watch in disbelief as he struggled to pick up his feet. He wanted to be independent, insisted on going out alone for 15 or 20 minutes. I worried.

And as I sat in the car, imagining a trace of this man I dearly loved, plodding along, some stranger was scrutinizing rooms, rooms filled with memories—someone who might make an offer and create new memories. I waited, waited, examining so many impressions.  I thought of the healthy Charles who could do anything, build a deck or perform the most difficult intubation. And later when every move was an effort, even tying shoelaces. We had to shop for shoes that Velcro’d.  And when he walked across the carpet to test their fit, the saleswoman said, “What’s wrong with him?”  I wanted to tell her everything that was right with him. I wanted to tell her to shut up.

I see all this and wonder how I can leave the place where he died.

I sat in the car over 30 minutes, waiting for the prospective buyer to leave, and when she did, I rushed to my door.  The agent said, “She loves it.”

Been five days since the broker’s open.  Laura and Erma have a signed contract.

Sunday, while Laura and I were on the road for North Carolina, my place was shown three times. As we crossed the boundary separating states, I saw that sign I’ve written about before—the one announcing we’d left Virginia and entered the nation’s most military-friendly state.

We’d just been discussing the anti-US protests in the Middle East, that both the FBI and Department of Homeland Security have warned that a terrorist attack is likely in America—the when (?), where (?), but not the why (?).  We know that last one.  Laura said, “Can you imagine Mall of American?”  I responded that it wouldn’t be a bridge.  No reason to waste explosives on infrastructure already collapsing.

September 19, 2012:

Awakened to an email from a reader who’s become a friend, P, telling me that Fla. Rep. Bill Young (Republican), a long-time supporter of the war in Afghanistan, is calling for withdrawal of troops.  Doesn’t want any more kids to die.  P and I agree that he’s referring to American kids in the military, not Afghan children.  According to Young, many Republicans express his opinion.  Sen. John McCain doesn’t. He’s calling for increased military action in Libya, Syria, and Iran.

On the bedside table in our hotel room is a folder containing a purchase agreement.  If I want the unit I prefer, I’ll write a check, contingent on the settlement of my Baltimore condo.

I think about my friend WidowRica, how simpatico we are.  Can I leave Widowrica? I don’t know what I’m doing, what I want, where I want to be, or really if I want to be. And while I’m not in a fetal position, I’m unsure of almost everything. Except when I stand on that balcony of the fifth-floor condo, I think about jumping.  Laura knows me well, my ups, downs, all levels, and suggested I sign for a higher floor. If I ever decide to take that leap of fatality, she understands my objective is more than a few broken bones and brain damage.  When Laura said this, the sales rep laughed.  “You two are really funny,” she said.  I laughed to keep from crying.  Laura laughed to keep me laughing.

Missy Beattie is in Limboland. And has been for a little over four years.  Email: missybeat@gmail.com.

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Missy Beattie has written for National Public Radio and Nashville Life Magazine. She was an instructor of memoirs writing at Johns Hopkins’ Osher Lifelong Learning Institute in BaltimoreEmail: missybeat@gmail.com

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