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This must be the place: ‘The universe begins immediately to your left’

This must be the place: ‘The universe begins immediately to your left’

It was an otherwise quiet Tuesday evening when my girlfriend started in on me once again that it was high time to get rid of the old couch in our apartment in downtown Waynesville. By last count, it was probably the fifth or sixth time she’d said that this year.

“Well, I want to get rid of it, too,” I replied, never once taking my eyes off the Netflix documentary we were watching while sitting on said old couch. “If you go on Facebook marketplace and find one that’s newer and better, then so be it and we’ll toss this one on the curb.”

It was only a moment after those fateful words echoed out of my mouth and throughout the one-bedroom humble abode when Sarah gazed around the rest of the apartment, her eyes eventually landing on the nearby closet, filled to the brim with my clothes, books and mementos, most of which forgotten in haste amid a writer’s life.

“We should also clean out that closet,” she said. “I mean, I could use more space for my shoes and things. I don’t have enough in the back bedroom. You think we could clean it out at some point soon?”

I paused Netflix and put down my lukewarm half-full beer on the coffee table. Without saying a word or stating my intent, I stood up and walked over to the overflowing closet. The first thing within reach was a stack of books almost as tall as me. I began pulling the books out and placing them on the floor of the living room.

Sarah asked what I was doing. All I said was, “It’s time.” Time to clean out the closet. Time to dust off the bookshelves. Time to change out the window blinds and shower curtain. Time to toss out any and all things deemed unnecessary and unused. And time to toss the couch.

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I’d like to say that the two of us completed the deep clean of the apartment — whether physically or existentially — that evening. But, it would another two days at about six hours per day before the endeavor of stubborn persistence and sheer determination would culminate in victory of one’s intended house and home.

Once the books were removed from the closet, the remaining items in the seemingly never-ending space were revealed. A pair of Rossingnol skis, boots and poles. Old beer signs and countless concert posters yellowed with age. More books. Boxes of winter jackets and flannel. Boxes of CDs now deemed obsolete in the era of Spotify. Boxes of photos and other trinkets from youth and adolescence.

With the closet now empty and vacuumed, come Wednesday the focus turned to the rest of the apartment — living room, kitchen, bedroom and bathroom. And the front porch, which included a musty ole porch couch, soon to be added to the curb alongside a couple of ragged chairs — the hope being to, eventually, procure adequate outdoor furniture for porch guitar pickin’ and sippin’.

By Thursday afternoon, we had entered the “home stretch.” The kitchen was spotless with a slew of pint glasses from numerous craft beer tastings around our region over the years now given away. The bedroom was transformed with a new comforter, sheets and pillows. The bathroom scrubbed with some elbow grease to a fine shine.

Alas, all which remained was the living room. The gravitational center of any home cleansing jaunt down the rabbit hole of pillaging your past in hopes of dumping the weights of its contents, whether literally or spiritually — the intrinsic value of such outweighing any sense of sentimentality over old receipts, notes and ticket stubs.

While Sarah was busy tracking down a couch on Facebook marketplace, I sat at my writing desk looking out on a bustling Russ Avenue. The desk was filled with endless papers, files and whatever else I deemed worthy to toss in the drawers late at night when emptying my jean pockets following another wild night on the town.

When it came to the desk drawers, I found myself wandering along Memory Lane. Old photographs from high school ski trips and cross-country races over 20 years ago back up in my native North Country. Christmas cards from my parents. For some reason, my college acceptance letter from 2003 to Quinnipiac University was in the drawer. As was my actual birth certificate, an item I’d lost track of when I arrived in Haywood County in August 2012.

Marveling at these newly-rediscovered tokens of my life, an unidentified truck pulled up in front of the apartment building. It was the new couch Sarah had purchased. A mid-century modern six-footer, which ideally transitioned the living room from post-collegiate hangout to actual 30-something dwelling of style and grace.

Sarah hopped onto the couch with a big grin. She was happy with her purchase and her ongoing place in my life. I was, too. Although I’ve lived in the apartment for more than a decade, this was, honestly, the first time the place felt like a home and not just somewhere I left my guitars, flannel shirts, books and vinyl records. I thanked her. 

Dumping out the final desk drawer into the garbage can, I noticed a bottle cap from a Magic Hat #9 craft ale. The company was well-known for its fortune cookie sayings under the caps. I hadn’t seen one of these caps in many moons and here was one right in the palm of my hand. I turned it over. It stated, “The universe begins immediately to your left.” To my left was Sarah. I smiled in gratitude. Onward.

Life is beautiful, grasp for it, y’all. 

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1 comment

  • Yeah from me. .twas tough fella ..but was time...even found the lost comforter from Chrissy in Montana . 3yrs ago.. ..Congrats!!!!

    posted by Kathy Woodward

    Wednesday, 10/18/2023

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