D.L. Mayfield

living in the upside-down kingdom

one day

yesterday we moved into our new apartments, the place we have set our eyes on since we visited in June. it was a day. due to circumstances it was basically just us moving, me packing and scrubbing, the husband carrying and loading and driving and unloading, time and time again. the baby either cried or unpacked or sat happily with her sesame friends, and i felt proud and exhausted and disheartened all at the same time. moving alone does this to a body.

we have long said we are on a journey of downward mobility and now our mettle is being tested. paper-thin walls, smoky hallways, bent-up burners that make it hard to cook, doors with holes in them, no dishwashers or fancy things here. we are on the ground floor, our windows just above the earth outside, which enchants the 2-year old as squirrels run by.  but the building is old, heated by water and radiators, no controls to be found in the apartment. there was a cold snap, and as a result, the apartment was sweltering. i thought of the book i so often read the baby, and i realized we could easily have a green house up in here. but i unlocked the windows and let the biting air in, the sounds of the city coming along with it. i wonder why everyone else has bars in their windows but ours don't. i shut and lock them as we leave.

we went out to get a bite, because we realized we didn't own things like ice-cube trays or trash cans, and we were tired. people thronged in the corners, shouting and laughing, we walked by quickly, hurriedly. i felt afraid, truth be told.

back in the apartment, i can hear the neighbors. hear them talking about the new people moving in, wondering why we are here. they are not happy, they don't understand. a couple of weeks ago another little family moved in upstairs, people who look and act like us. a bunch of freaks, the neighbors said, and i crouched like a rabbit, frozen, caught where i was not supposed to be. the thoughts i never wanted spoken aloud, right outside my door.

and i get it, why would i expect people to be happy just because i have shown up?

in the dark, i had many thoughts about the people and places we left, the support systems we had in place back in Portland, the way we had been invited into the lives of others. what hubris is this, to try and insert ourselves into a place that feels to me as foreign as Timbuktu, everybody else speaking the same language of survival, me trying to speak the language of the soul. but it's survival time for us, right now, and we could stand to learn a lot.

we shut our windows, sweated the night through and through. the bed we bought broke. the baby woke up at 3, and then at 5 (this time for good). the husband left for a job interview, because we need money. the baby and i took a brisk walk through the leaves, some of the first people to wander in the morning. and it felt so different, and a tiny part of it started to feel good.

we have been here one day.

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