I place a full bowl of popcorn, freshly popped on the stove, (very little canola oil, very little salt, very little butter) next to the 24-carat gold jhumkhe earrings my mom bought me. I dug them out to wear to Paul Auster’s reading the other night (hoping he would remember me in the future by those earrings) and tossed them on the corner of the table. My mom bought them for me when my dad, after a childhood+ years of being absent, came to my sister’s graduation. He had brought a similar pair from India with him and, in a childish gesture, returned to India with them. I had always loved jhumkhe earrings – seeing how my father’s stupid actions hurt me, my mom went ahead and bought me a similar pair for Diwali that year.
Next to the swollen bowl of popcorn, I place a steel glass of water with lemon juice that I had been carrying in my other hand.
I think, like a flash of lightning – I must write. I have to write.
This is how I prepared to pack up the better part of the past 5 years of my life. The mortality of the little things were suddenly so apparent to me – the last weekend I have in this apartment, the last meal I cook on this gas stove, the last garden I raise in this backyard. It’s comforting to me to bask in the finality of it all. When I first moved in, by myself, I had no furniture and slept on a couch I requested the previous tenants to leave behind instead of throwing away. The apartment was empty at night, in those early days, me sitting by myself on the old couch (which I had covered with a white bedspread I bought at Urban Outfitters for $15), sometimes watching DVD’s on my laptop. The echoes of the pristine wooden floors were tremendous at that time – while the light from the laptop was the only three dimensional object in the house, or so it seemed.
How many feet have traversed the doorway of this apartment, how many versions of myself have crossed the threshold. Have I morphed along the way, one continuous stream of “Geeta’s”, each version unable to exist without the other, or have I changed mind, body and soul into myself at 30 years now? Have I come where I hoped I’d be by 30?
The depth of the losses I have endured after first walking into this apartment seem so real to me, when I think about all the ones that occurred while I lived here. (Was my karma in this apartment in any way attached to the failures? Am I breaking free of karma or entering a new karmic debt by moving?) At the same time, the gains and strides which have blessed my path since I moved into 2339, Apartment 2 – described as without boundaries and invaluable. My life at USAID started here. The second half of my 20’s lived in and out of this apartment that I often made a spinning door. Somewhere along the way, while at this apartment, Washington, DC became “home.” My friends in DC transformed from acquaintances to family, with stories of the “old days” to reminisce about. I was no longer a student, when I moved into this apartment, but a professional I had so yearned to become. In this apartment, countless sublets, guests, friends, family and strangers have walked. I’ve had 3-day-long birthday parties (complete with sleepovers), bring your own topping pizza parties, and intimate dinners with boyfriends that were eaten during the stillness of night in the backyard over the flame of a single white flame. My mother’s long visits, helping her down the stairs in the snow, carrying her luggage up and down the stairs, teaching her how to use the bus down the street.
I know the parameters, the soft spots, the boundaries, the on-street parking rhythms, the touch of this neighborhood as you would know a lover. When I found this apartment, I was two days away from having to move from my old place. I had nowhere to move to – but I was holding out for a 2bdrm, with wooden floors, gas stoves, spacious energy on 40th Street. I walked into the apartment at 7am the day before I was supposed to move, signed the lease that night by 7pm, and sat deliciously on the steps afterwards with Marc, who happened to be jogging by as I signed the “J’ in Raj on the lease. I had gotten exactly what I was holding out for.
Earlier tonight I saw my tater tot. Walking up to the car on the street, I found her in the backseat, body folded into an L shape, sleeping in a carefree, beautiful, peaceful way. Her breathing was deep and rhythmic – I wanted to melt right into her restful state. Suddenly I wanted Clarity to be two again, waddling up the stairs to my apartment in the way she used to, so I could scoop her up and fall asleep with her in my arms, her comforting me instead of me comforting her. She was wearing a brilliant purple and radiant turquoise Rajasthani langa that I brought from India last year for her. The radiance from the bright colors and the silver sequins floated above her head, in an angelic way, but also calmed the energy surrounding her sleeping self. This image lasted momentarily, as it broke when I caught a glimpse of pink tights with yellow flowers that she was wearing underneath her skirt.
This munchkin is so grown up, I tell myself and the munchkin’s mom, as I squeeze into the car to hand Clarity a gift box for her first day of second grade. Second grade for Clarity, I think, and a whole new home for me. Let’s get on wid it. I’m ready. As I’ve witnessed her grow up, witnessed her slumber parties and dance parties and games all at my apartment, I’ve also grown up while being here. It’s been the longest I’ve lived anywhere in my whole life, the only place I truly could call home for more than 6-9 months.