I push the key in the knob and it turns, the familiar click of the mechanism inside works and the door opens easily. It is dark and damp in there. I feel my soul pick up the weight of the place. It picks up the weight and wraps it in thick wool blankets and nestles it deep in my chest cavity. I barely breathe, just shallow little tugs at the air. The kind of breaths you take in a library or when you are playing hide and seek, worried your wretched body will give you up.
I go into the kitchen and run my hand down the smooth and cheap composite counter tops. I go through the laundry room to the back door. I hold the door open with a mostly-empty, left-behind garbage can and walk out on the deck for a moment. I look at the creek before I go back in and fumble with the window. I lift the heavy glass and grab the wooden spoon from the sill and prop it under the pane. The weights were lost a long time ago. Fresh air sneaks in.
I follow the dark hallway to her room. It is bright in there, the sheer curtains let the light come in and reflect off the floor. It’s always been that way. Bright as soon as the day decides its begun.
Her bathroom is a pale pink, the curtains I made for her are still hanging there, the lace looks heavy. I pee in the toilet and I flush it. Then I clean the thing and flush it again. I run the sink water a long time until it gets hot. I scrub my hands with a teensy bit of soap left on the counter and wipe my drippy hands on my jeans.
I walk back down the dark hallway and go outside. I wander around the edge of the property. I see where we buried Montana the cat at the fence line and Cass the dog in the un-mowed grass. The clay-filled ground squishes under my feet. I stare at the fire ring a long time, it’s grown-up with weeds and the cinders in the center are piled up high. I think of the muddy shoe prints and grass blades left on our white linoleum kitchen floor the morning after a bonfire. I think of how quickly Mom would sweep and mop them. Tidy.
I walk through the grass and step in the holes left from the wheels of Mom’s little red Honda that died when I was 4. It got left at the edge of the yard a few months too long before being towed and the tire marks forever imprinted themselves on the place. I walk by the rock that killed the mower dead every time without fail, no matter how careful you were. It would make a horrendous bang and then it would go silent.
I look at the ditch line covered in scraggly weeds and I think of the daffodils that will surprise the new owner of this place in the spring. I walk to the mailbox and look inside. Empty. I walk up the road a ways. I walk past the neighbor’s house and their basketball hoop whose court is made of grass. Useless. I was so practiced at dribbling in that grass that the first time I dribbled on pavement I threw the ball so hard at the ground in front of me that it bounced over my head and on down the court.
I walk across the bridge that spans the creek, the one we fished off until we gave up hope of ever catching anything. The one where my brother and I won several truth-or-dare games by jumping into the icy water mid-winter. I walk up to the fields where we would take our friends late at night to prove we were braver than them. Not afraid of the dark. Not on Indian Fork at least.
I turn back towards the house and I walk home for the last time. I walk past where the neighbor cut down our pine trees and I walk down the gentle slope of our driveway back to the front porch and I climb the steps. One. Two. Three. Steps my child legs learned to climb with ease. Steps she sat on, coffee in one hand, cigarette in the other. Laughing and smiling and beaming. Steps I will not put my feet on again. They won’t be my steps anymore. Maybe another child will learn how to use their legs on these steps. Maybe many children.
How satisfied she would be with that answer.