The house was filled with cardboard boxes. I was five years old, and everything seemed large to me, and the memories I have from this time are scattered and I may have forgotten the worst of them. I remember lying on a bench outside while strong men put our things in a truck. I remember my mother brushing the hair from my face, expressing teary-eyed that this would be a great new chapter. I did not understand the sentiment of a chapter. Life had only been one chapter. I thought life would only be one chapter. I thought life would be play time and Van Nuys and elote in the park forever. Or maybe I did not know forever.

The apartment was filled with cardboard boxes. When I’d arrived in New York City four years earlier, I thought it would be forever. But Los Angeles called my father on the phone and told him there was a job waiting for him, a really good job, and he’d be stupid to say no. So when they told me we were going back, I heard, instead, that these years I’d spent on treeless walks by the brown, brown Hudson river would go to waste. That this was all for nothing. It was a new kind of betrayal. And when we left and I slid down to the floor against the elevator door I thought that tears would never cease, that today would never go, and when I returned to Los Angeles it would not be the homecoming my mother made it out to be. Because this was home. I’d made it home. But I was nine years old and my mother’s hand was bound to mine. I would go where she took me. I rode the A train with my mother and my sister all the way from Tribeca to JFK. The seats were orange, and when I moved back to New York City much later, I liked knowing that each A train I stepped into could be that very train, could take me home.


The new house was filled with cardboard boxes. We hadn’t been there long enough for me to care. Los Angeles, I’d figured out, was more than Van Nuys, and in fact the land of big hills, of kids with famous parents, of Sun, of traffic, all the time. I went to school that morning, sat in my very first middle-school classroom, got bullied by my very first middle-school bullies, cried in my very first middle-school bathroom, and came home to a new new house down the street from the old new house. The new new house was bigger, but we had no living room furniture and so my dog thought we were giving her away because that’s what happened last time her owners packed up the house in a bunch of cardboard boxes. Our address only changed by two numbers, but my mother was very excited. Driving to school that morning, she told me that this was a new chapter. I didn’t question her. It was new enough.

The new new house was bought by a famous comedian. My bedroom is now an office. I cried like a baby when I left the new new house because I hadn’t cried the last time, and I thought about leaving a mark somewhere, here, thought about ruining the perfect paint. The new new house was eight years new and when I sat on my bedroom floor, watching strong men take my things and put them in a truck, I wondered if anything could last forever. I had friends who’d lived in one place all their lives. Studio City, by Tere’s Mexican Grill. Larchmont, a block away from the first cardboard-box house. Silver Lake, atop the big hills I hadn’t climbed yet because I was in another chapter of brown rivers and concrete. I was moving back into my old bedroom in the apartment in New York City and I had a whole summer ahead. I was doing big-girl things, working, cooking, leaving. Leaving for college, which meant putting my life in cardboard boxes again. I cried when I left New York. I sat on the floor of the elevator, riding lobby to 7, 7 to lobby, until it didn’t hurt to walk out the door. I think a part of me still sits on the elevator floor. I think she keeps the old me company. 

In August, I unpacked the boxes. In May, I’ll pack them right back up again. I am starting to think this is the nature of life and me. Maybe I will always be going somewhere, elsewhere.  

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