Country roads, where is home?

Ever feel like nothing happens, then everything happens? 

In my month’s break from Substack, everything has happened. The cicadas arrived. Everyone (that wants to) became fully vaccinated. Seth and I got kicked out of our apartment. We found a new place. I’m in Wisconsin. 

What? 

In the beginning of the month, between the summer heat and vaccine dreams, I was in a perpetual good mood. I got to hug my friends, over and over. I wrote a new story every day. I became thirty-one, with a new set of anticipations. And I prepared our apartment for summer, buying a table and chairs for the backyard and installing a bug net on the door so the cat could join us outside.

That’s why it came as such a shock when Seth and I got the news that our apartment lease would not be renewed.

My vision of summer included sitting in our backyard while Elliephant tried and failed to catch bugs, and watching thunderstorms roll in, feeling rain drip from the balcony above us, enveloped and protected at the same time. Not house searching, packing, moving, unpacking, and all the associated headaches.

I had really come to love our apartment. We’ve been through a lot of shit while living there, but I finally felt like we’d beat it. We’d discovered how to kill the flies before they breed and figured out the weird washing machine-dryer combo. We learned how to clean up that fucking dust. We’ve been through bed bugs. We came up with a plan to make me feel safe in our less-than-safe alley. Would all that work be for nothing? Yes. We needed to leave and there was nothing we could do. 

Something else happened this month. I figured out my cat. 

Seth and I have been in a lighthearted battle over who she loves more. Yes, I’ve been with her since she was tiny, and I’m the only person in the world she’ll let pick up… but during the day, she always sits on Seth’s lap, not mine. I bought her a big, heat-reflecting cat bed to put in my office; she ignores it. I set up a different chair next to mine; she doesn’t care. She always, always, always sits on Seth’s lap. She seems to feel guilty; sometimes when I enter the room while they’re cuddling, she’ll stand up, chirp, and walk away. 

The secret is the chair. 

It’s an old, threadbare chair I’ve owned since living in DC. It’s a pattern of red, blue, and yellow faded into tan. The fabric is starting to rip away on the left arm. I can’t even tell you what the pattern is. Paisley, trapped in triangles? It’s ugly. I love it. 

So does Ellie. Seth sits in this chair; she joins him there. So after our housing search, I began sitting in this chair too. Nine times out of ten, she joins me. The tenth time, she lies on the ground at my feet and purrs up a storm. 

The chair is home. I know it and Ellie knows it. The street, square footage, and floor plan don’t matter. We’ll bring this chair to our new apartment, which is going to be even better than the current one. Then, once we move, we’ll go to Madison for a month, and remember an even deeper home. 

Oh, by the way. I’m writing this from a bus from DC to the Line 3 Pipeline camp in Minnesota. We’re currently driving through Wisconsin, about to make a pit stop in Madison in eight minutes. I’ll get to see my mother for the first time since December 2019, to have a fifteen-minute hug. There’s a Culver’s on my right and a pond on my left. The roads are flat, as roads should be. Everything is working out fine. 

<3 Denise

PS: My bus ride is funded through a new organization called Arm in Arm. It’s like the older version of the Sunrise Movement, though it’s open to people of all ages. They’re planning to do great things like stop Line 3 — a major flashpoint for the tar sands pipeline industry — as well as support policies like DC Statehood and the THRIVE Act. On the way back, we’re going to make another stop in Madison and rally outside Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson’s office for THRIVE. Would you consider donating five or ten dollars to support this trip?

I’ll be honest and tell you I didn’t personalize my fundraising page, it’s brand-new — I decided on this pretty last minute, only after Seth and I had figured out our housing stuff. But I’m more than happy to talk about why I’m here. I’ll also probably write about it next Sunday. 

PPS: Another publication alert! Here’s a short flash fiction piece published in the Schuylkill Valley Journal, called The fence, the zoo, and the empty stroller.