away message

When Katie went to college, I got her big bedroom. I always coveted my sister's room. It had pink trim, posters of sharpay puppies and a walk-in closet. Because my sister is kind and tolerant, I spent a lot of time in her room. She often let me sleep in her bed. One time I got stuck in the crack between her bed and the wall and she rescued me; it all happened while I was fast asleep.

I didn't realize until I was decorating Katie's room to my tastes that the reason I wanted to be in Katie's room so badly was because it had Katie in it. With Katie gone, the room felt less cool, less fun, less like a sharpay calendar, less everything. I painted a pattern of ivy with a stencil all around the room. I unpacked my perfume bottle collection and put my guinea pig Henry's cage in the corner under the window. I made do in her absence but I never quite felt like myself in her old/my new room.

The same thing happened when Cal, Jonathan and our honorary fourth roommate David graduated from UNC and moved out of B3. They were all a year ahead of me in school and I knew it was coming, but B3 in Graham Court was never the same after. I had a good senior year; I spent half of it in the Big Apple and all of it missing the missing.

Max, who I live with now in LA, is away working. He went back to London nearly a month ago. This morning when my dog Vincent and I got home from our walk, I looked around at our house. It's still our house, but very different. The hours are longer in a Max-less house. The place gets a little drafty when the weather drops at night; a Max-filled house is warm. Max sings the same bits of songs that he loves throughout the day. I play my new record player but the records play through with no grooves that get stuck like Max has.

My sister's room, apartment B3 and my house in LA: they are the unfamiliar familiar when the people I love are not there. The "faraway nearby" is what Georgia O'Keefe called it.

On the almost eve of your birthday, Max, me and Vincent want you to know it's not just the two of us missing you. It's the house too. The door to the mudroom, the whistling fridge, the coffee cups, the garlic press, the footpath, the plastic pitcher in the shower that helps us conserve water, and the canisters on the counter miss you. The tea kettle hasn’t been herself since you went and really hasn’t warmed to me. Kindly return, Max. There's no place like home, without you.