Her house is going on the market soon. So there are pictures online for the prospective buyers’ convenience. She’s pointing to the rooms, her face lighting up as she rambles a little faster with each flip of the slideshow.
I nod along and try to empathize with the attachment to these spaces, the ones with memories she tells me in an attempt to guide me to the edge of her reminiscence.
There’s still the same furniture and light fixtures and subtle markers that this is her place, her family’s place, but it’s weird that it’s soon to no longer be her’s, she says, hand to forehead and brow slightly furrowed.
I’m aware that right now she isn’t sitting in a coffee shop in Columbia, Missouri with me. She’s floating off to the East Coast, walking the halls of her home, shaking her head in disbelief at the imminent occupance by others.
Suddenly she peers at me staring blankly ahead and breaks out of her brief wistful mood. “I’m sorry,” she apologizes, pointing out that I surely must be disinterested.
I actually am quite interested. I’m interested in how, no matter how hard I try, I can’t enter her mind. I can’t truly grasp that there is special meaning behind that nook and cranny, that secret door, that bed & bath arrangement.
I can try to imagine it, but besides the fact that this task won’t bring me remotely close to any accurate reenactments, I also feel like I’m intruding. I don’t belong in this space, unique to her family and her family alone, and trying to imagine it may further butcher those intimate moments, already fragile in this day and age.
I will never know the sight of her sister washing up and primping in her bathroom in the morning, or the sounds of practicing that grand piano, or the smells of family dinners floating from one room to the next, just as palpable as the feelings of togetherness. So is there any real point in telling me and not keeping it to yourself?
But we share so we know that things matter, that everything matters. Everything may matter to someone differently, just as every room and sight and smell had its own impact on her siblings and her parents and everyone who set foot in that house. And through all those differing disassociations, we learn that there is no such thing as an objective reality if there are individual memories tied to individual objects to go with individual perceptions.
And of course, now you’re trying to imagine the scene I just described — what was going on in that coffee shop, what we were wearing that day, what we were drinking, what we had been talking about prior, where we were sitting, and even if I were to tell you, you probably wouldn’t imagine it 100% accurately.
But here I am telling you anyway. Because just as I ended up listening thoughtfully to her stories and explanations, you’ll do the same for me. Because caring about each other’s experiences is one way for us to see the world for the subjective creature it truly is.