Christie O.

The House Next Door


The house next door is empty right now.

Every time I drive by it, my heart breaks and I get one of those pangs in my chest. I see them working on the house every day and I want to stop and ask them, angrily, “do you know who used to live there!” Not as a question.

More as an exclamation.

As they go about their business next door, pressure washing, painting, yard work, getting it ready, I feel anger for the all these changes. As if it’s disrespectful in some way. “Don’t touch that!” I want to yell at them.

“Stop doing that!” I want to say.

I’m surprised by my emotions about the empty house next door.

I was surprised by my emotions when the “For Sale” sign went up. It was like a kick in the gut. I remember driving home from work and that morning it wasn’t there and then when I got home it was. I wasn’t expecting it. I turned off the ignition. I put my head down on the steering wheel. I cried.

It was real. It still doesn’t feel real.

Every night I drive home, still expecting to see him pulling into the driveway. He had a really cool car. My son loved it.

Or hanging out in the garage on the weekend, doing something I am not sure what. He would always wave.

“How are you?” “Good, how are you?” “Beautiful day out!” “Yeah!” “Have a good one!” “You too!”

Or backing his road bike out of the garage in the morning, getting ready for a ride. Bumping into him at a beer run. He liked beer runs. So do we.

He was so quiet. I hardly knew him, except for what I knew of him.

He was only a few years older than me. We’ve been here for almost 10 years and he, long before that.

Until one day he wasn’t.

No one expected that either.

I’m surprised by my emotions for a person I hardly knew. Over the years I learned he was smart, “science smart,” and he owned his own business. He had a cat (or cats, they hung around outside and my son loved them) and fish. He hung out and drank beer with the neighbor across the street from him. He was kind. He was quiet.

He always gave out candy to the kids on Halloween.

I would see him meet my husband halfway between our houses when they were both out doing yard work and they’d talk cycling and sometimes my husband rode with him. He loved cycling. Until he couldn’t do it anymore. His back hurt too bad. He didn’t know why but it hurt too bad to ride.

It’s cancer, they told him. Lung cancer.

No. How could that be? He’s too young. He doesn’t smoke. He’s healthy. It doesn’t make sense.

By the time they found it, it was too late. He tried treatment but the treatment was too aggressive.

A couple weeks later (weeks!), I saw the ambulance one night and we knew.

His parents had just arrived.

I didn’t even get a chance to make a dish. I hoped to make him a dish! Go shopping for him! Do something. Anything. Just to let him know that we knew. And we were here.

But it was too late. He was gone.

He never knew how much we were thinking of him. How I prayed for him. How I pray for him now. How angry I get that a young life was taken so soon by the roulette that is f*cking cancer.

And now they’re next door, I can hear them right now. Getting the house ready for someone else. Soon there will be no sign of him. That he ever lived there or who he was.

And it breaks my heart.

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