December 28, 2011 1 Comment
He opens the door – and it looks like a lesser version of Hoarders: Buried Alive. Cigarette butts and ashes, trash bags, pillows and clothes litter the floor. I gingerly step over the trash bags and peer into the kitchen. Empty Coke bottles and stained circles of cardboard that used to hold pizza.
This is my child’s heaven – his haven, his new home.
Ian is doing well in rehab – and part of the reason is this apartment, with the 10-foot Drug-Free vinyl banner, about a mile from the center. He walks – or is driven – to his outpatient sessions, then he comes home to this. He is happy.
Tonight, we made things a little more official. After sleeping on the floor for months, he moved into the second bedroom of a former roommate who left sober and seeking a new future (but fortunately left behind a table and an armoire). Unlike the rest of the apartment, Ian took out the asthmatic vacuum cleaner and swept the floor, picked up the trash, and dusted the furniture. I folded his clothes and placed them into the newly-acquired armoire while he arranged his computer, television and Xbox. He got a twin-sized bed – with box springs! – and was thrilled to have his foam mattress topper too.
I look around approvingly. The place, minus the trash, is bigger and, in some ways, nicer, than my first place, I tell him.
I too left my childhood home just two months shy of 18. Granted, better circumstances – I went to college early. But the desire to be free, to dance in my own space, and be surrounded by others Just Like Me – well, I get it. An hour after I was dropped off at the girls’ dorm at OSU, I pierced my ears – my first act of independence.
The first ‘home’ I had was a $100 attic room, with quaint dormer windows that I could throw open in the summer time and survey my uncool, high-crime neighborhood that bordered campus. Later, when an ex wouldn’t stop stalking me and wouldn’t leave my front lawn, those same dormer windows were opened – and I balanced a .22 caliber rifle on the sill to steady my gun sight on him. He left.
Moral of the story: Don’t mess with crazy, young Ohio farm girls.
But I digress. I shared a bathroom, and had my own shelf in the large open kitchen, well stocked with Cheerios, peanut butter and cases of Tab. I shared the house with about five other girls.
I loved it. I cannot tell you the layouts of the myriad apartments of my young adulthood, but I can still place the furniture in this room. The brick-and-board shelves that not only held my books, but my black guinea pig, who would whistle at me when I would unlock the door at night. The bed, the desk, the small chest-of-drawers – each one had significance.
It was all mine. The stuff, the experiences, the time. Mine. Unabashedly, selfishly mine.
And now, it’s Ian’s turn.
I’m excited for him, even though neither of us know where things are headed. We are truly living one day at a time. Serious issues lie ahead. How will he finish his high school degree? Will he go to college? Should he work at Starbucks down the street?
Will he relapse?
I don’t know the answer to any of these. But I do know that I was greeted with a tenuously joyous young man at the door. A strapping 6-foot tall teenager who has walked through hell and now has found a piece of heaven.
It’s his time. And I could not be happier for him.
It’s a new time for me too. I’m far, far away from that girl who would look at the moon from her dormer windows, being center stage in life. But I am glad to feel wonder again – from the sidelines now – over the simple pleasure of a room of your own.