I heard the knock at the door. Who on Earth could that be at this time of night?
I have to tell you, I was a bit scared when I opened the door. It was pitch black outside, but the guy standing on my porch seemed to have his own glow.
I could see him perfectly- crisp grey uniform, clean shaven face, a bit of concern leaked out from his smile. He was holding a clipboard in one hand, a pen in the other, when I opened the door, he looked straight at me.
“May I help you?”
“Are you (he looked down at his clipboard as if to verify something) Mister Michael F. Stern?”
“Yes. Is something wrong?”
“No. Not at all. I am here to help.”
“Help with what?”
The man smiled a curious smile- like a Cheshire Grin with no malice behind it.
“Why to help move things out. I am a mover.”
For the life of me, I couldn’t make any sense out of this at all. A crisp work uniformed man who glows in the dark, knocks on my door in the middle of the night holding a clipboard and tells me calmly: “I am a mover.”
I didn’t know what to think. I guess that I didn’t think at all. I just opened the door to let him inside. I wanted to show him that there was nothing to move. Just a five room house, with just me,some furniture, knickknacks, computers, and a TV. That’s it.
As soon as he came inside he turned to look into what I thought was my living room: Two chairs, a couch, a TV, a recliner, coffee table, two small book cases, and an umbrella holder in the corner. At least that was all that was there before he looked in the room.
“Oh My. My my my.” He said.
My eyes grew wide. I couldn’t believe it. The room was packed. Packed! From floor to ceiling it was stuffed with stuff that wasn’t mine. How did all that crap get in there? I was horrified and fascinated. For the first time in my life I understood people’s fascination with shows about Hoarding and Hoarders. I wanted to know who would keep all that stuff, and why.
I turned to tell the Mover Man, that wasn’t my stuff. He had already stepped outside the front door to yell to someone in the dark:
“Hey Bobby, Al, Mark, we are going to need a bigger truck!”
After a moments contemplation the Mover Man added another aside:
“Were on it Boss.”
“Where did all this stuff come from? Why is it here? Who’s is it?”
Questions were pouring out of me like machine guns spit bullets…in a staccato burst of never ending words.
The Mover Man waved his clipboard in a calming way. Making me slow down my questions, my mind, and my heart. When I was calm again-he spoke:
“Oh, none of this is yours. It is her stuff left behind. You can’t keep it all here, and bring anyone new home. That is why I am here. I am the Mover Man, and will help you sort out what you need to keep, and what has to go.”
I must have looked like one of those old Greek Statues with no eyes. Just a block of humanity standing with no expression at all. I didn’t know what to say. So I didn’t say anything. Somehow, the Mover Man took that as calm acceptance of his words. He continued on as if it was perfectly natural to have a room filled to the breaking point that was fairly empty before I opened the door to let him in.
“Okay. Lets start with just the stuff you had here when I came in.”
I swear. I would swear on a stack of Bibles too. The stuff went away. All of it. I stuck my head in (believe me, I was to scared to go in my own living room by then) and looked all around. All I saw were the chairs, couches, knickknacks, TV, coffee tables and umbrella stands. Just like it was before I opened the door.
“How much of this…is yours?”
I was shocked.
“All of it.”
The Mover Man shook his head. He patted my head like you would a child who just doesn’t get it.
“None of it. Not a single thing in this room. We will have to check the whole house…if this is any indication…well, you might not have a darn thing here.”
He smiled. Sad. Soft. Comforting. He patted my hand.
“Now, now. It will be alright as soon as we move this stuff out. Here, let me talk you through it. “
I swear on any Bible you can find- the Mover Man took me by the hand pulling me gently into my own living room. Like you take your best friends on a tour of your first house- showing them every little nook and cranny.
He pointed to the Walls first.
“Did you pick those colors?”
I shook my head: “No.”
He pointed to the Ceiling Fan.
“Did you pick that out?”
I shook my head again.
He pointed to the Couch.
God, I hated that couch. A giant over stuffed leather couch. To big, to showy, and uncomfortable as hell. But she thought it showed Class. I thought it showed a lack of Class. But she wanted it…so….
“No. I hate it.”
The Mover Man smiled. Raised his clipboard and made a note.
“What about the chairs?”
If it was possible, I hated the chairs worse than I hated that damn couch. They clashed - even I could see that. I am no Interior Decorator, but I know you don’t put overstuffed chairs with floral prints on them, that are from the turn of the century; in the same room with a Modern Leather Couch.
At the end of our tour, the only thing in the room that I had picked out- and liked, was the recliner. I loved that thing. The Mover Man made a note on his clipboard.
He waved his hand, and I know you are getting tired of me swearing, especially on Bibles, but I swear that when the Mover Man waved his hand, three guys appeared and started taking out everything but the recliner. I watched stupefied as piece after piece went out. Sitting in the middle of the room looking somehow all alone, but just right, was my recliner.
I hate to swear again, but the three men came back in the room, spaced themselves along one wall, and then (I swear this is true. I saw it!) reached up with their long arms and PEELED the entire wall away. The did this for all four walls. Just reached up and PEELED it off in one long sheet. I almost fainted. If the Mover Man hadn’t held my elbow, I would have at least stumbled.
“What color do you like?”
“What color do you like? Or would you prefer wood, wallpaper, or maybe both with a wainscot along table height?”
This might sound funny, but I did have an image of what I thought a living room should look like. A nice warm blue color with drapes to soften the edges of the window. I always wanted a mantle over the little fireplace too. She thought Mantles were to old school. I thought they were nice.
I told the Moving Man that I wanted brick around the fireplace, and that wood and wallpaper sounded great. He made a few notes on his clipboard, handed a slip of paper to the three men - they looked at it and smiled.
“We’ll get right on it Boss.”
Finally I was starting to get a handle on this strange evening.
“Where’s all that other Stuff? That stuff that crammed the whole room when you first came in the door?”
The Mover Man smiled. Patted me on the head like a “good boy.”
“Most of that went when you chose how you wanted the room to look. You see all that other stuff was clutter. It was her memories, her choices, her desires, that filled up the room. She didn’t leave much space for you in there. When we took out the furniture, a lot of your memories of her were clinging to the couch, and the two chairs. So you almost emptied the room yourself by letting go.”
I was getting it now. She had moved out after the Divorce, but left all her stuff. Her anger with me. Her desire to have her own home and get her way all the time. My own twisted attempts to placate, please, or impress her all tangled up in the furniture she chose. After she left, I kept all those things she left behind. Mistakenly thinking they were mine.
I live here now. Alone. I don’t need her crap, or have to take it anymore. I felt like the weight of ten years of a bad marriage was being lifted off moment by moment. For the first time in over a year- I laughed.
The Mover Man’s face lit up.
“Why are you laughing?”
I could barely breathe. I waved off his help. I just let the belly laugh continue to cleanse my heart, my soul, my mind. It cleared ten years of pain, in two minutes of convulsive laughter. Even my future looked clearer, brighter, more welcoming. It was a healing laughter.
So I told him.
“I laughed because of what you showed me in this room. It made me think to myself:
'If he thinks she filled this room with her, and her stuff, wait until he sees the Bedroom. He will have to get another truck!’”
The Mover man laughed with me, not at me, until the tears ran down his face. The three helpers in the other room stopped putting up wallpaper as they bent double guffawing and giving each other High Fives.
“Well, let’s go see this bedroom then. I can always order another truck.”
That set off another peal of laughter as we went up the steps. The Mover Man patting my shoulder as we headed upstairs.
Finally, it was done. There was nothing left of hers in the house, expect a small box in the Guest Closet. In there I put the lessons I learned from living with her. I had a small box that contained the things we both did wrong. I kept those to remind me it isn’t always just one person who is right…or wrong. Sometimes it is both of you.
I kept a few of the nicer things of hers too. Mostly memories from out dating life, and that second year of marriage. She was happy when we were traveling and seeing places, but not so happy after we bought the house. I kept the travel memories.
I had a special gift from the Mover Man, it was a small felt lined box. In it were three things: A wish for my ex to have a good life. A wish for her to stay far away from me. And a solid gold anchor that let me know that in the end, only I could live my life. I could share it. But I couldn’t live it for someone else. I love that anchor.
I tried to tip the Three Helpers, and the Mover Man as we all enjoyed a nice cup of coffee and some donuts once they had moved everything out. It did take a bigger truck. Two, in fact.
I could still feel his clipboard stabbing me gently in the back as we hugged goodbye. I watched them drive away into the night. Turned off the lights and went back to bed.
In the Morning, I woke up thinking:
“That was a beautiful dream. Now, I am ready to Move On. The Moving Man did his job.”
When I got downstairs, I fell to my knees.
In the living room was a single recliner. There was brick around the Fireplace. Wainscoting at waist height, and a beautiful blue patterned paper above. On the Mantle was a picture of me and Moving Man. I had just finished laughing, tears still streaming down my face. His clipboard was draped over my shoulder, dangling in a lose grip. Behind us, three men were tearing down the wall in a single sheet. They were still laughing too.
I got back off my knees. I ran upstairs to see the bedroom. It didn’t look empty, or lonely, like it had for the last year and half. No, it was bright welcoming, warm, inviting. My bedroom. Mine.
The Moving Man had done his job.
I filled that house again. This time with things that made it a home, a haven, a heaven. I filled it with Us, not me or her, but us. I knew I would never see the Moving Man again. I looked up at that picture on the Mantle many times in the future. I never told the woman I love who the men in the picture. I would just say that it was a picture of the Moving Man and his helpers. I would hug her, and over my shoulder I would see the Moving Man in the Picture raise his clipboard in salute.
I would wink a salute back.
He moved her out. I moved the new “her” in myself. Her name is Elaine.
She came with furniture of her own, but no baggage. Her couch compliments my recliner, and she brought her own recliner too. Our wedding pictures, her brother’s Marine Picture, and her Mom and Dad’s wedding photo, sit on our mantle over the fireplace. Next year…well, we have to add a nursery. We didn’t want to move.
After all, the Moving Man got it all the first time.