The neighbor’s house down the street. Quick cash sale—“As is.”
The pale wife, rarely seen except for well-timed trips to the mailbox from the tightly-curtained house, made a change after her husband died.
Curious, I went to the estate sale. Crossing the threshold was like falling into a time warp; I felt as if had I resurfaced in a 1970’s-era Sears Catalog. Stale shag carpeting, once forest green, covered the floor of the living room, rust-colored shag in the rest. Dingy walls showed bright rectangles where pictures had once hung, many of them now stacked against the walls. Little furniture remained in the front living room, but as I went further into the house and peered into the homebuilt, wood-paneled rooms at the back, I saw that they were full of old furniture and belongings. Too new to be vintage, too old to be kitschy, too nondescript to be retro.
The estate sale company hadn’t made an effort. Preprinted price tags, neon orange, adorned everything from the unexpected biography of Gertrude Stein among the National Geographics to the rusted and dented TV tray tables tossed against a support beam in the basement. Astonishingly high prices on less than pristine…junk. The sort of junk we all have cluttering various nooks in our houses, that we periodically purge for the donation box.
This estate sale was how the pale woman purged her belongings: all at once. She was nowhere to be seen, pressure marks on the carpet in the two almost empty rooms indicating the few large items that went with her. No one in the neighborhood had spied a moving van in the days leading up to the sale; she didn’t take enough to need one.
Three days later workers for the new owners came in and began gutting the house. Their first task was to finish the job the estate sale company had so poorly started—emptying what was left in the house. For two days, the man disappeared into the house, grabbed an armload of price-tagged items and tossed them into an industrial dumpster parked out front. Pots and pans, dishes, linens, books, tables, planters, picture frames. The contents of the once tightly-curtained house destined for the landfill. No ceremony, no hesitation, not a second thought.
The kind neighbors who know everything say the pale woman moved to a high-rise apartment building for retired seniors not too far way. They say that she couldn’t be happier.
I like to imagine her now, in her new home. In an open space that contains only the things that matter. Her belongings, her history, her future reflected in the light coming in from the open windows.
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