Every day I come home.
I unlock the door to my apartment, hang my keys on the hooks I installed by the entryway, and I throw my purse down on the ground beside the shelves I stack the mail on.
By this point, my cats have come out from their napping spots around the place. Bacon comes to me first and plops down gracefully on the floor before my feet. She rolls, exposing the spots on her petite belly, and holds a pose with the tip of her tail up-turned. She’s a show-cat at heart and I shower her with praises for her poise, her beauty, and her discipline.
Hector then slinks his way into the room a little less gracefully, rubbing his open mouth on the corner of the hallway wall, and then he stretches his lanky upper limbs along the floor. He sits on the ground and waits for Bacon to stop her performance so that I can pick him up and cradle him in my arms. He’ll purr and have his mouth open while he breathes his hot, cat-gingivitis breath in my face- but I don’t mind.
Happy cats, happy life.
I’ll then change into lounge gear or work-out clothes depending on what day I am on in my gym cycle. On a good week, I’ll be at the gym four or five times a week.
It keeps me balanced.
After an hour passes by, the cats sprint to the front door with their nails scratching on the hardwood floors as the rip around the corners of the hall. They hear the turn of the second key before it’s even in the lock. It’s Dave- my live in boyfriend, my partner.
“I’m home!” he shouts.
The cats do a second showing of their performances for Dave and when they’re done, I throw my arms around him and I tell him I love him.
Before I lived here with Dave, it had been years since I’ve felt like I had a home. Mom, the house we lived in in Manahawkin was decrepit. You bought it off old man Mel down the street from your parent’s house and I don’t think we had ever called it home.
We called it “the house.”
You took all the stuff Mel left behind and called it ours. I remember saying it was weird eating off all of his old plates and flatware. We watched TV on his old, hardened-over-the-decades couch cushions and washed off what we could of the cigarette smoke stains off the walls. I never wanted to invite friends over and I was terrified sleeping there overnight.
But when you were there it felt like home.
The house began falling apart shortly after you signed all of the papers. You couldn’t keep up with the repairs and then stopped calling the repairman. You would sometimes patch the holes in the roof, fussed around with the plumbing, and had an ADT alarm installed even though we had nothing to steal.
When the bank foreclosed on the house, you began renting the house from the new owner. He repaired what he could, but the house was too much of a hassle. He sold the house to another owner and after a couple of years, Ryan told me you were being evicted.
I was at Rutgers still and reading that message finalized what I had known all along: home was where I made it.
And now, every day, I love coming home.