how do you kill a house?

you rupture its stomach.

the door won't close. you're buried up to your knees. wiggle on your belly, like a snake in the basement. like a worm through a vessel. you can't sleep with the hallway gaping and the scratching and shuffling of hidden vermin and the larger crouching figures of boxes and laundry and rotting food and ancient yellowed magazines and whatever else blurs in the corners of your eyes as you vault to the blackened door frame and push. it doesn't budge. the door is stuck fast, frozen in lockjaw. you shift uncomfortably, unknown hazards poking you through the soft blanket you stand on. how many layers of detritus lay under that fabric? how many years had it been building up? how many years would it take you to clear away? every doorway is like this, you think. every bed, every closet, every floor, piled high and useless. soft black bruises on the walls. mildewed sores on the bathroom ceiling. the light bulbs are burned out. the windows are broken. the sink doesn't work. nothing works. this house is a cluster of failing organs. if we cleared out its airways, would it scream?

you starve it to death.

sometimes you visit your childhood home in your dreams. in the blue-dark hallway, fungal strands hang like wet hair. giant ginkgo tree limbs tear straight through the floor. you awake as the branches reach for your unmoving face.

when you moved out of the home, you left it completely empty for nearly two years. the rooms were frigid and the pipes were bone dry. nothing could thrive in a home like that.

you imagined it sometimes, squat and toadlike in that little ditch by the freeway, daydreaming of the parasites it once detested. pining for little claws clicking through its pipes, gossamer wings fluttering and the endless wet chewing of maggots. anything, even mice and mold and weeds, to disrupt the unbearable silence and settling dust. it would throw its doors open to any guest: vines to rupture the walls and roots to buckle the floorboards, spores, dirt, rain... humans, to destroy it more thoroughly than you ever had, or to burn it to a pile of smoking ashes. if only it had a voice to shout, come in.

if you could tell your house one thing, through the surreal nightmares it sends you, it would be that nostalgia is a liar. loneliness is always better than abuse.

you donate its body to science.

once you've starved the disease out of the walls, you sell it to a handyman. he sets the house like a broken bone. windows replaced, sagging floor braced, bricks scrubbed and patched and painted. a camper sits in the driveway, and a little herb garden lines the stairs. a six-month resurrection. you know how carpenters are.

His daughter moves into your old room. She hangs up lights and open curtains in the windows your mother painted to look like stained glass. Already she has embraced the gifts that you could never accept.

do you know where you are?

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