I close the front door behind me and step down from the porch. The porch is collapsing towards the house and will need to be repaired. Across the yard, my wife is leaning on the car parked against the curb, on the street called Mohican Way. The late summer sun is streaming in below the trees and everything is warm and gold. Wind rustles the leaves high overhead. Tallest trees I’ve ever seen. Any one them could take out half the neighborhood if it fell.
“Well?” I ask. She’s getting her sense of the neighborhood.
Our girls are strapped in their carseats. The windows are open. The dog squirms in my wife’s arms and she calms him with a whisper and a scratch. She turns to look at another house across the street. She nods yes.
She doesn’t seem 100 percent.
“Yes,” she says again.
A few weeks later we are in bed in the house, trying to get used to being in bed in the house.
“It looked better with their furniture,” I say, my book lying open across my chest.
She gazes in silence at the dark hallway beyond the door. The floor fan hums and swivels, blowing air past my face.
“Our furniture looked good in our house.”
She says nothing. The cat blinks between us.
I envision us replacing window treatments. Pulling down wallpaper borders. Putting in a ceiling fan with a light.
“How did they live here so long without a light?” I wonder.
The floor fan clacks and turns the other way, towards my feet.
“There was a lot of love in this house,” she says.
She’s serious. She can feel these things.
“Is there a ghost?” I ask. I’m serious. I don’t want there to be. She’d once said there was a ghost in my house, the house I grew up in. She said it was a good ghost. This was news to me, but when she said it, it made sense. It explained some things. And I realized she was right when I was alone packing my parent’s things after they had decided to move. The sense of panic and fear, the sense of something crying out no, stop raised the hair on my arms and made me cry out I’m sorry.
When we viewed this house, the woman who owned the house had come back with her dog as we were leaving, saying sorry but she couldn’t keep the dog out any longer. When we met later to discuss repairs on the sunken porch, she told us she’d raised four kids in the house, then went on about how all the kids’ friends loved to “hang out at Mohican.” When we closed on the house, she told us how she’d wanted to sell last summer but she wasn’t ready. When I drove by the night before closing, she was outside watering the hostas.
It’s six months later and I’m coming down the stairs. I turn the corner into the kitchen and I don’t feel at home. I feel like I’m coming down the stairs into someone else’s kitchen.
I want to go home.
It’s four years later and my wife and I are lying in bed in the new house. Unpacked boxes clutter every room. Some of them were never unpacked at the old house. Some have stickers from both moves. We’re more comfortable in this bedroom, and after a few minutes my wife says, “Does this house feel more like us than the other?”
I place my book flat across my chest. “Yes. But we knew that already.”
She taps the cat on the nose and says,”Whoever lived here before us was ready to leave.”