The Things We Leave Behind

Pets, Writing

I’ve often wondered what people think about the things I leave behind. I wonder because I constantly make up stories about lost objects, scribbled writings, pieces of paper left behind in books.

Once, I found a plane ticket stuck in a paperback—a satisfying bookmark. I knew where he was going, but not why he was going. I get little clues about people from the things they leave behind, like the nip bottles and whole, undamaged croissants spilled in the alley, probably a tired Starbucks worker off shift.

In preparing to leave a home I have loved for the past four years, I find myself considering what I will leave behind. What other people will assume about my life here.

The house has a lot of history—it was built in the 1800s, and the number of people who have crossed the threshold, lived and loved within its walls is likely staggering. I do know that someone used to store ice in the little room that is now my pantry. I know that in the 70s, it looked just as it did now, only with more lava lamps. I know that someone picked out the godawful linoleum and painted the walls with almost intentional sloppiness. They are clean white now, but I remember the relics of the past.

When I walk out into the yard, I pull the weeds from around Pantalaimon’s little grave. It is marked simply, with a beautiful rock carved with “Pan <3”. I wonder if anyone will notice or wonder about the marker when I am gone.

The headstone is more than just a headstone if you know the whole story. It is a symbol of the life and love I have built here over the last four years. It reminds me of the friends who came together when my beloved pet died, even though most people wouldn’t care about a rat.

Its story is my friends digging the little grave for me, decorating a coffin, holding a service, and then keeping me company with pizza and a screening of Ratatouille. I think it might have been the biggest rat funeral in Cambridge, ever.

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The stone arrived a week or two later, totally unannounced. My roommate smiled slyly as I opened it—he’d been in cahoots with our friend to deliver it to me. My heart was full, and I said goodbye to my Pan with proper ceremony and love.

The things we leave behind are often more than they seem.

I may be leaving behind a place that I have loved, but it will not forget me. It will not forget the joys, sorrows, and challenges, because I will not forget them.

Whoever you are, I wish you joy in this house, the house that was my home.

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