When I was growing up, I knew a lady who lived in a house in a middle of a field, without hot running water. When she wanted a bath, she would heat up water in an electric kettle, and slowly fill an enormous tin bath in the middle of her kitchen floor. By the time it was full, the boiling water was the right temperature. One day, she moved out of that small house, and into the town nearby. Now she lives in an apartment. I don’t know what happened to her house.
When I was growing up, I lived in a village that had six houses, a post office, and a pub. I spent my childhood barefoot in the fields, and walking the neighbor’s pony across the bridge as though it were an enormous dog. After I left home, they expanded the village. Now there are a lot of families crowded into the same space, and the woods are probably never as empty as they were when I was a child inside them.
These are only little stories. Stories of one person’s life and another person’s childhood. They mean nothing in the grand sweep of time and progress. This sort of erasure goes unnoticed, except by those who notice. It is not the sort of thing that gets written in history books. It is not even the sort of thing we speak about, because we know these things no longer exist. The village with six houses no longer exists. I couldn’t go home if I wanted to.
But this morning I picked up my keys on the way to the bathroom before realizing what I was doing. It’s been twenty years since I had to go outside to use a bathroom, but something in my body remembers. Something more than memory. Something built of equal parts habit and longing, still alive in my cells, reminding me that it was real; that it lived once, outside of my head.
I heard once that every cell in our body is replaced in seven years. But there was my body, holding the keys to the front door in its hand, because something had whispered that the bathroom was that way – straight through the kitchen, out through the door. And if you blink, it said, you might catch a glimpse of apple trees in the sun; of chickens pecking their way across the yard; of your father coming back inside after feeding the dogs.
I blinked, but it was a lie.