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House / little match girl?

I chose to feel it and you couldn’t choose. I’ll write you a postcard. I’ll send you the news, from a house down the road from real love.

-stars, your ex- lover is dead

***********

At what age does owning a home with someone stop feeling like playing house? I wasn’t the same child I’d been, but whether I was still a child or not remained to be seen. She was staying then in a home not her own anymore, and I invited her in. I found out her name and called and called nightly until she finally came. Right away my tastes were criticized, first gently then more and more forcefully; the colors I loved were too bright, the vases I picked were too shiny, the garden of flowers and trees was overgrown, everything was too cheap. The surrounding meadow was too quiet and the nights were too dark. She longed for the city. I tried to go with her, but the noise was deafening, and the lights were blinding, and no one would look me in the eye. “Here is where I belong,” she said. I replied, “Everything is so expensive.” I ran back to the house we’d built for each other, and waited there. She returned weeks later drunk and dazzled with dreams. And when she looked at me, and moved like a spectre in our halls, I knew that she was not where she belonged.

Eventually we both fled, and the little home stood empty. We took up places in cities as far as could be from each other. I was sad to leave, and more than a little grateful to be free.

I unpacked the bright things I’d hidden from her disapproving gaze, lined my bare walls with comfort and contentment.

One morning, a tiny owl landed on my windowsill and laid a tiny note in my hand before flying away. A time and place was written in her messy handwriting.

Maybe I read it wrong, because when I arrived at the house, no one was there.

Her broken shoes were lying in the dust of the closet. Pages from books we’d lent each other were scattered on the floor. Smashed records we’d once danced to, torn sheets and curtains, dead stalks of flowers we’d picked and handed to each other when they were alive and smelled of spring.

The wind whistled through a cracked window, and I knew winter was on the way.

Maybe I read it wrong, so I waited there for her.

I waited until I was freezing. I waited until the freezing turned to numbness. I waited until the numbness turned to warmth. 

With the last of my strength I lit a match and set a single page on fire.

The house that was no longer home burned, and I burned with it. As the body curled up in the middle of the flames I shed it like a shell and flew out of the cracked window.

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