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If My Heart Was a House

        When I was in therapy trying mindfulness techniques, my therapist told me to put all my hurt in a box and give it to someone I trusted. That one made me cry.

        You know that feeling when you were a child and you were lonely but didn’t know why? You know how you tried everything to fill that void? I hear some people turn to drugs or alcohol and others rely on their parents and some have friends they can talk to. I hear some people search for romantic relationships to cling to as if that will solve the problem. For some, maybe it does. I wouldn’t know.

        I turned to fiction. I stuffed the crater in my soul with things that made me feel close to people who don’t exist. I crammed the corners tight with long coats and neckties and a forked stick I had scraped smooth with rocks and green tie dye and the cloak my mom helped me sew and men’s pants and a teacup I had painted in gaudy colors. I filled my journals with names that some other person had made up. I plastered my walls with drawings and hid some under my bed and stuck some to the ceiling. Sometimes I’d pretend to be someone else, especially when I was falling asleep, because having pretend problems bigger than my real problems made my real tears seem pretend.

        No one tried to tell me I’d grow out of it because I never told anyone. It was in those years that I built the house in my head. Everyone I loved--from every television program, every movie I watched on my tiny screen at two in the morning, every book, every videogame--lived in the house. I was safe there. When I close my eyes and focus and listen to my footsteps ringing on the cobblestone in my mind, when I feel the cool doorknob in my hand, when I open the door and kick off my heels and hang up my coat I can still hear him playing the piano in the main room.

        I still visit the house sometimes. It’s harder now to concentrate long enough to reach the front door, let alone the rooms beyond. But if I really need to, I know I can sprint down that endless hallway of doors and find the right one. I can thunder down the steps and open the vault door and lock it behind me. If I try, I can still see the room, the art on the walls, the bed piled high with stuffed animals, the gramophone, the typewriter on the desk, the bookshelves. And if I choose, I can collapse on the quilt and cry real tears and no one will see me. No one except maybe him--the boy I gave the box to in therapy. He knows how to open the door and he knows to knock first. He knows which of my plushes are my favorites and he knows what songs to sing to calm my heart. 

        It doesn’t matter that he’s never been real. It doesn’t matter that all the things I’ve shoved in the hole in my heart are starting to fall out because there’s too many. It doesn’t matter that I shouldn’t sleep with stuffed animals anymore. What matters, I guess, is the way the house smells. The way the sunrise looks from the backyard when I sit on the roof and watch it illuminate the fields. The sound of the dogs running to greet me when I come in. What matters is the safety I find in my own head. What I use to fill my emptiness isn’t important. What is important is that my life feels a little less hollow with him in it.

©Kaylee Schuler

Listen to the song I chose for the title:

Listen to the playlist inspired by my head-house:

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