2023-12-20: the old house, again

this year's been strange. i've been having dreams, over and over, about a house that no longer exists. my partner came to this city a year before i did, in the mid 00s. she rented the third floor of a rickety old house on an elm-lined street and, well, it was okay. she loathed her landlady. she didn't like her housemates ("don't talk to the old woman," she advised me once when i was visiting, "she tells everything to management"). it was, on the balance of things, a place to live for a year or so. she had lived with her uncle for a few weeks while she looked for a place to live, and that was nice enough. he's a quiet, kind man, bought our late dog (a puppy then) a bone from the butcher, thereby endearing himself forever. but that was short term, and anyways, he lived a long ways out from her place of work.

so she lived on the third floor of that house for a year, and then bought a house (prices being reasonable then), and then i joined her, packing up my life and moving west. we moved into a post-war neighbhourhood full of little bungalows, almost all of them under 1000 sq ft. our own place was 780. a finished basement, technically. the baseboards had water stains. the foundation leaked, and after a particularly hard rain, we found the basement starting to back up (we called the city, they came — our backflow valve was blocked). the concrete walls crumbled to a certain point. it was an old house — a stopping point, not a destination — and we didn't think we'd stay long, maybe four years at the most.

we spent nine years there. nine years squeezing into a tiny shower in the basement, the only shower in the house, dutifully picking up wood lice and flushing them down the toilet every time we went downstairs. and yet. and yet. the upstairs had lovely hardwood flooring. the front door was solid oak, and heavy as hell (we refinished it before we moved out). the backyard was enormous, perfectly for our dog to explore. it wasn't perfect, but there were things to recommend. it was a lot of stress, but it was ours.

the house no longer exists. after we sold it, i think the buyers stayed there for a couple of years, and then sold up as well. i remember coming through the neighbourhood one day to look at it, see if it was still there. it wasn't. gone, along with the three enormous pine trees in the yard. in its place: two modern, very narrow houses, the lot divided into two. you and i look at a house and see a place to live. a developer looks at a house and sees uncaptured value.

(that said: the new houses will have good foundations; they'll have sump pumps, central heat, AC; all the pain points we experienced gone)

the house is gone except for in photos, memories, and the dreams i've been returning to. last night, i dreamt my partner said we should go check it out. in our dream, we somehow owned both. we entered the house. the layout was wrong, but in that dreamlike way, i know this was meant to be the house. there was the low ceiling. the lack of light. the hardwood floor, and the huge backyard.

something comforting about this, about things living on in my brain's darker regions. i wonder what else is there, waiting to make itself known. there is so much i've forgotten, but have i forgotten it? what if it's just latent. lying in the neurons, waiting for a spark.