Welcome Home

by Emma Barrie

You’re back! Isn’t it great? Isn’t it great to be back in your old room? Or in the room next to your old room, because your old room is now your stepdad’s office and the place where he’s allowed to TiVo sports? Isn’t it great?!

You made it out of Brooklyn without a stick-and-poke tattoo, which is something only a select few can say, so give yourself a little pat on the back. A little pat on the back where that stick-and-poke would have gone. You thought about it. About getting your best friend’s initials, or an outline of Brooklyn, or an outline of that Brooklyn coffee shop you loved, or an outline of a cup of coffee and your favorite novel inside the outline of the Brooklyn coffee shop inside the outline of Brooklyn with the slogan “Ain’t Nowhere Better, Ladies!” (a slogan you would have made up about Brooklyn while you were drunk on tequila gimlets and your best friend was sticking/poking you). And the best part about making it out without a tattoo, is that now, when your mom walks in on you naked three times in one morning, you have nothing to hide! Go ahead mom! Check this out! The same body you diapered, the same ass you wiped, the same vagina you looked at under a microscope or whatever you did 26 years ago! No need to knock! Absolutely nothing has changed! (Except your bedroom. Which is now your stepdad’s sports-watching room.)

You made it out and you’re back home, and you’re starting to understand why people love exercising so much. You never loved exercising before, but now it’s like a religion for you. Exactly like a religion. Like the way Judaism is your religion, where you mostly ignore it and then once in a while you use it to get out of things or as an excuse for telling an off-color joke. And now! Now, exercise is serving a similar purpose, when there’s nowhere to go and your house feels smaller and smaller and you can hear your mom downstairs yell up at you “I’m calling my cell phone! Feel for vibrations!” and you’ve looked through your high school yearbooks eighteen times screaming “WHAT WENT WRONG?” Just get on that exercise bike and pedal the pain away. Just cycle yourself into oblivion. And when your dad calls and says “Let’s talk about your health insurance,” just pant heavily and say “I’m on the ol’ bike, let me get back to you!” (It doesn’t matter if you’re actually on the bike. Just like it doesn’t matter whether you’re actually keeping kosher or you just don’t want to eat that weird-looking ham.)

There’s not a lot of space for beer in the family fridge. No one else drinks beer, really. You learned how to drink beer in college, and for four years after college, and all you’ve done for the last 8 years really (sorry, Mom) is drink beer. So you make a family contribution and purchase a six-pack. You stuff it in the vegetable drawer, next to some lettuce your mom picked from her garden. Squished together, the Sierra Nevada and the organic Bibb inside the drawer, a metaphor for you and your mother, living squished together in a house. Or something. Her voice echoes in your head: “You know if I wasn’t your mom, we’d be BFFs.” Something she said three days before: “Don’t think of me as your mom. Think of me as your fun roommate! Your mom-mate.” That echoes, too.

There are leftovers, though. Always. And if you say really loudly, “I wish we had some chocolate,” sometimes chocolate will actually appear. It will actually appear on your nightstand every day for a week. And one day you’ll realize you forgot to change the Brita filter, and you forgot to pay the internet bill this month, and you forgot to set out a mouse trap (a humane one, relax), and you forgot to go grocery shopping. But someone will have already changed the Brita filter, and no one’s asking you to pay for your internet, and there are no mice, and the fridge is pre-stocked with so much quinoa you could take an all-quinoa bath. And maybe every time you see your dad, he’ll say “Hey, you look great! You know you don’t need to exercise so much.” And you’ll start to think you really do look great! And one day, if your blush cracks in your purse and gets pink powder everywhere and you have a very important job interview and can’t leave the house without your cheeks looking a little pinkish because you have some weird hang-ups, your mom will probably have some blush in her drawer. And a purse you can borrow. She’ll probably have other things too, things you haven’t bought in 8 years. Luxurious things, like q-tips and cuticle cream. And actually maybe her bathroom will be like running through a Sephora on a very special episode of Supermarket Sweep. And maybe your step-dad is a psychiatrist and he’ll say things like, “How are you?” but he’ll say it in a way where he looks deeply into your soul and so every night you’ll spill your guts about how hard it is to leave your best friends of 8 years behind and move back home. How it sometimes feels like you’re 15 again and sometimes it feels like you’re 45 and you should just give up. How you can’t help but feel like you’re doing it all wrong. And so he’ll listen, and you won’t have to pay for the session. And your mom will offer you a selection of teas.

Emma Barrie has also written for the New York Times and This Recording.