The first thing I noticed was how empty it seemed. The kitchen table was still there, but a couch was gone. And although stray bits of junk were strewn about the table, it was clear that they had been carelessly discarded. I had barely been able to make myself open the front door; closing it behind me wasn’t much easier.
I stepped further into the condo. My condo now. I had been gone for nearly a month and I looked at it with fresh eyes. I watched the play of the light through the blinds, the dust particles dancing in the sun. I breathed in the smell of home — a smell that had, for a long time now, been tinged with pain.
A soft bump and brush against my leg made me look down: my cat had come to greet me. I picked her up and snuggled her and told her how much I had missed her and that I would never leave her again. Holding onto her as a talisman I slowly walked through the rooms, taking a broad inventory of what he’d left.
Over the coming months I would discover over and over that something I was looking for wasn’t there, and I would conclude that he had taken it. Each time the wound was opened again. Each time I cried. But on this first passage I only noticed the big things: the couch, the expensive camera, the wine fridge.
I had expected this. Getting divorced had been my idea and I wanted it over as quickly as possible. I couldn’t bear the thought of going back there to go through things with him, dividing them evenly and fairly. So I just told him to take his stuff and leave me mine. But, of course, so much of it was our stuff. And most of that, he had taken.
I was almost done with my first pass through the condo when I opened the hall closet. The picnic basket was gone. The lovely, wicker picnic basket that we had received as a wedding gift. I almost cried, but instead I laughed.
What would he need it for? I tried to picture him and his frat buddies, filling it up with Miller Light and Doritos and heading to a beach party with the picnic basket in tow. Opening it to reveal the green and white gingham lining and napkins, the silverware, dishes and wine glasses, all pushed aside or tossed out to make room for their beer.
The absurdity of it left me breathless, but it didn’t surprise me. I closed the closet door and slid down to the floor. Sitting there with my cats weaving through my legs and pushing their noses into my hand for pets, I managed a small smile. “Who takes the picnic basket?” I laughed to myself. It would become my mantra, my way of explaining things. At that moment, though, it was just my way of making it through the day.