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Personal Essay: Home

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My tires are crunchy on your driveway; your father’s scruffy chin gives me a smile. Welcome home, I think he says. The warm musk of wood is like a soft kiss. I reach for the doorknob; the door is light and silent. You’re not there, but it is still your room. Your brother is there, his cheek sticky with sleep and breathing sticky with restlessness. Your covers are deep blue with white stripes. Sometimes, I think about how each square is big and perfect enough for a game of Sudoku. I can fit my left hand into each square, and one time I counted the squares while I was waiting for you to come home. Your bookshelf has books that you hate and I love; your bookshelf has books that I hate and you love. There are pink, coiled snakes sleeping on the sides of the shelf; I think of how we could go on adventures. How we could go bouldering in Joshua Tree or bungee jumping in Nepal, but then I remember it is just pink yo-yo string and nothing more. There are all sorts of numbered stickers that have black fuzzies stuck to the back of them, but you don’t care. When you peeled them off of your hip, all you cared about was water and the finish line and when you got both, you stopped caring about those too. There is a nightstand with those cool mugs you made in that clammy classroom. With wide eyes you tell me not to drink from them. That might not be a good idea, you said. What does it matter, I said. I watched you watch me watch the mug vomit the tea down the drain anyways. Your table is covered with one and a half sheets of red paper. There are silver marker drawings of names, drawings of epiphanies, drawings that mean nothing, and drawings that could mean everything. I gave you a lot but my name is still not on that table; you have given me a lot but my name is still not on that table. There is a heap of clothing that smells of rain-soaked mornings and apple pie. Hidden in that heap are things that I forget when I am without you. There are those stiff jeans that I giggled into as your brother entered the room demanding headphones and you demanded privacy and I demanded air. There is that door that is now covered in black poster boards, but it was the door that let me taste the ice of night. I was tired of the goose bumps on my arms and counted the headlights of cars that went by. And when I forgot exactly what is was that I was counting, I counted seconds instead.

The couch is sticky in the summertime. The couch was so sticky that one time you got up, skipped steps down the stairs, past the light and silent door, and unlocked the garage. We looked and looked for something that I don’t even remember; I remember we never found it. So instead we pet the bunny, and re-stuck ourselves to the couch like insects in a spider’s web. That was where we watched Bug’s Life until I thought the funny parts were funny and the sad parts even funnier. We watched until I was red in the face, and your throat was warm. It takes ten steps to get to the kitchen, eight if you don’t want to disturb anyone’s sleep. From the bunny cage you can hear the tomato bleeding onto the plastic yellow cutting board. You can taste the pressure between his furrowed brows as he wonders just how one folds an omelet. Like a bicycle bell, the coffee grinder sputters out coffee snow. I wanted to play in the bellies of coffee snow but you packed it tight and screwed it into the machine and asked what I like with my coffee. You gave me milk and sugar anyways, and as I drank the sugary sludge at the bottom of the mug, I knew you were right.

In the dark cabinet, there is always Ovaltine. You’ll remind me of how my father’s spoon would clank against the jar’s mouth three times, and how he used to add warm milk. Just like ma ma used to make it for me, my father would say. I would pretend to like the first sips he gave me, but he put Nesquick into the shopping cart for me anyway. The Ovaltine would kiss his upper lip and leave a slick of chocolate. He would wake up at six thirty in the morning and punch the four-digit passcode of our alarm system into my dreams. I used to wake up at six thirty in the morning to tiptoe into his bed so we could giggle at the things that have become reality now.

So on that one day when I crunched my tires onto your driveway and we made horribly shaped pancakes, when the laughter met silence and your brother’s Ovaltine cup ran dry, I wondered why your house felt so much like home.



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