Prelude to a Housewarming

Photo: © Olga Breydo. All Rights Reserved.


That late summer and into October they spent moving and settling into their new house. It was a four-bedroom ranch house in northeast Albuquerque with an enclosed backyard, a strip of grass, a treehouse, a swing set, and raised flowerbeds that at the time they moved in were choked with the vigorous overgrowth of trumpet vine. The sellers, as was natural, had played up the luxuriousness of the house’s amenities and renovated features—the oven had been installed too close to its own wiring, the refrigerator died within a month, the entire circuit breaker wasn’t up to code, faulty pipes under the kitchen sink rotted out the bottom cabinet, the sprinkler heads were chipped, splintered and disconnected, and all the grass died that first summer. Still, it was home—the first house the couple had owned—never mind all the expensive lessons in home repair, the consequences of cheap renovation. They had the walls painted a lighter, brighter shade of off-white. Isaac purchased almost two hundred dollars’ worth of gardening tools and went to work on the trumpet vine; he dug out the tough grass, clipped back the rose bushes, planted mint around the alley between houses. Laney hung pictures, replaced some of the hideous light fixtures, and price shopped on the internet for a new bedframe now that Isaac had prevailed upon her to buy a king size bed.

The couple’s children, Ethan and Carley, had quickly adapted to their new home—it was the largest house they’d ever lived in. They finally had their own rooms which were just as quickly overrun with their stuffed animals and Legos, bath-time action figures and cardboard blocks. Carley was not quite old enough to go outside on her own and Isaac and Laney didn’t trust Ethan to supervise her, especially when it came to the treehouse and the rosebushes and the other less obvious dangers of a backyard that wasn’t completely visible from inside the house. But Isaac and Laney were loosening up as parents; it was a process that had started with Carley’s birth when they were still living in Las Cruces. Carley didn’t have the same implacable wail that Ethan had had as an infant—from the first week, she slept a comfortable six hours and was only fussy around eight p.m., needing a thirty-minute car ride around the ghostly university streets. One or two weeks after they’d moved, Isaac clicked shut the patio door, waved at Carley, and then led Laney to their bedroom to make love on the mattress on the floor. They could hear the kids outside in a corner of the yard near the treehouse; and afterward, Isaac lay beside his wife and listened to the thrumming, infrastructural sounds of the house, his and Laney’s house, waiting for the inevitable piercing scream of his young daughter telling him yet again that Ethan was bothering her—his cue that it was time to get up, get dressed, and be a dad.


They had lived in the house less than eight months when it happened. Laney called Isaac while he was teaching so he didn’t even know right away they had been robbed. Isaac cancelled his remaining classes and drove from the university passing close to the first apartment they’d lived in when they moved to Albuquerque. Isaac drove recklessly—too fast. He passed cars in both lanes and didn’t worry about red lights. Just a year of living in Albuquerque had taught him nothing he could do in a car—short of mowing down a line of schoolchildren—would get him into trouble. He could have driven home on the freeway but it was more satisfying to drive fast on the two- and three-lane streets, through neighborhoods that had become his first familiar territory.

Every time he moved somewhere new he was overwhelmed. He didn’t know if this was a natural human reaction or if it was specific to him but his first instinct whenever he moved to a new city had been to turn around and flee. He was instantly intimidated by any new place, the complexity of it, the intricacies and unknowns that surrounded him. This was true for small towns and cities—he’d felt the same way his first night in Las Cruces when he’d gotten off the highway and had the impression that he was driving along the edge of a cliff, a sense of vertigo as the buildings and restaurants and hotels seemed to rise along the road on a crest that obstructed his view. The feeling only lasted a few days. Then, as he built his routine into a new place, the distances shortened, he would no longer depend upon the major roads, and the stores and strip malls would cease to be novelties and become more like guideposts that an actual resident could ignore. The vast unknown place would little by little become home, and surprises would be rarer and rarer and much more pleasant—not ominous at all—like the discovery of a small coffee shop, a breakfast place, a better Mexican restaurant.

Isaac had been thrown into Albuquerque so quickly, simultaneously interviewing and apartment and daycare hunting, that this city had (for the first time) worn off its edges even faster. Laney had grown up in the city and her parents still lived here: that helped. The children loved being so close to their grandparents. They loved their spacious backyard, with actual trees, and their little dog, Rufus, who they’d found twelve years ago wandering around the mesa. Albuquerque was expanding. The desert was giving way to new developments, houses with energy-saving designs. On the west side, homes were still very affordable, but all Laney’s friends recommended they look east. That was where they’d ended up: on the east side of the city, near an east-west corridor that connected with the highway. They could drive anywhere quickly—in any direction. “And we aren’t next door to your parents,” Isaac had told Laney. She had frowned, then she’d poked him. “That’s better for everyone, don’t you think?” she’d said. This was their home too—everyone was happy. Until now.

Laney had sounded wild on the phone—obviously, she was upset, but the tone of her voice scared Isaac. She had told him the story that he was to hear multiple times in the next few days. She had also sounded confused, like the things she was trying to say had slipped out of her mind. Isaac was reminded of a phone call from his elderly grandma who had called his parents’ house a few months before she died. He had been in college at the time. He’d answered the phone and his grandma didn’t know who he was—she was panicked, not making sense, breathless, falling back in Spanish. She sounded terrified—even terrified of Isaac. Isaac’s parents were away—he was on his way out too—and it was plain luck that he’d picked up the phone in the first place. He’d tried in his limited Spanish to calm her down but all his grandma kept repeating was, “You tell your mama. Tell your mama.”

Laney, on the other hand, had no trouble recognizing Isaac—it was she herself who had become unrecognizable. “What happened is I came home, through the garage as usual,” she said. “I got the kids out. I took in my stuff. I didn’t even notice right away. Carley was demanding I give her juice—you know how she is. Ethan was yelling for no reason. I’d set down all my stuff and then I saw the jewelry box on the kitchen table…the ornamental one with the drawers and the key I got at that sidewalk sale in New York. I thought maybe you’d moved it—I don’t know why, I wasn’t thinking about someone breaking in…and I was just calling you and walking down the hall to ask if you’d moved the jewelry box when I saw our bedroom and all of my drawers in the dresser were open and the clothes thrown around. The drawers in the nightstand were open, your drawers were open and that’s when I knew someone had come in here and done this. They took all my jewelry from the box, my engagement ring, every ring and necklace you got me for anniversaries, my butterfly necklace, my charm bracelet, my iPad, I don’t know what else, what else of yours—I’m sorry. Did you have anything in the top drawer in your dresser?”

“A silver watch, a cross, I don’t remember…my passport.” Isaac had tried to visualize the arrangement of dress socks and knickknacks he kept in his dresser drawer. He’d heard Laney’s breathing and knew she was walking back into their bedroom and into their closet where he had his dresser up against the wall.

“Watch gone. Cross—I don’t see that either. Your passport is still here.”

“Did you call the police?”

“Yes. One guy was here already and they’re sending in someone from CSI, like the TV show. He told me to make a list right now of everything that’s missing. I already started. Can you help me?”

“And Ethan and Carley? What are they up to?”

“They’re watching a movie. It hasn’t really fazed them. It was the patio door. The patio door was wide open. I mean it was unlocked. Did you leave it unlocked?”

Isaac didn’t like this quick accusation, but the truth was he hadn’t checked the patio door that morning when he left for work. “I don’t know. I don’t remember. Ethan goes out there all the time and never locks it.”

“Ethan’s five years old. You have to doublecheck.”

“I’m coming home now. I’m not sticking around. OK? I’ll be there in fifteen minutes.”

“I just can’t get over someone in our house, someone touching our stuff, going in the room where we sleep, where our children sleep… They took movies, too. I don’t know which—Star Wars. They took a handful of movies. They touched my underwear, my bras, the clothes on the hangers. I just want to take a shower—I feel like I need to wash it off. But I’m too scared to take a shower if you’re not here.”

“Work on the list if you can. I’ll help. Don’t worry. I’ll be there soon. I love you.”

But Laney’s list was already pretty thorough. She had written down the big things. Mostly it was her stuff. Isaac still owned an aging HP desktop computer—no one wanted that. Books, journals, even Isaac’s old baseball cards—they were all there. He hadn’t left credit cards anywhere. He didn’t own any jewelry other than the cross and his wedding ring. Clothes, jackets, ties—the burglars had no need for these either. He jotted down some of the movies he could remember while Laney used her work laptop to freeze her iPad.

“It must’ve just been kids, do you think? Doesn’t it look like what a kid would take? Look here, they took the good whiskey your dad got me,” Isaac said. “They won’t even appreciate it. They also took the cooking vodka. One and the same to them. They were probably high.”

Both Isaac and Laney were moving aimlessly around the house, aware that a few hours earlier someone else had been inspecting the same things.

“The cop told me not to touch the door handle,” Laney said. “They might be able to get a print, but it’s unlikely. The surface is too small.”

“So what did they do? Just let themselves in the side gate and test the patio door on the off-chance it wasn’t locked. That’s some coincidence. And no one even noticed?”

No one had seen anything. Later, the woman across the street told Laney she’d seen a brown van come in the early afternoon and stop at their house but it looked like their neighbor’s cleaning service and it wasn’t very suspicious. Their other neighbor Rob came by when the CSI cop arrived. He’d been robbed two months ago—Isaac had forgotten. “They cleaned me out,” Rob had said. He’d wanted to give them a friendly warning. According to the woman across the street, who knew Rob better, the criminals had only taken documents and papers from Rob—a much more calculated robbery. This made it seem like two separate incidents.

The female officer from CSI was unable to lift any prints. She told them that wood was the worst for prints and that they wouldn’t have much luck with it. Isaac nodded and Laney glared at him.

“The drawers have metal handles,” she told the officer.

“We can give them a try.”

Laney rolled her eyes at Isaac. This officer didn’t inspire any of the confidence Laney had expected from TV crime dramas.

“Have you worked on your list?” the officer asked. “Try to make a fair estimate of the value. It’s worth checking with your insurance. Do you recall if you have personal property protection?”

“No,” Isaac and Laney said.

“In most cases the insurer only covers a certain amount and it’s very limited. It’s worth a try, though—you might be able to claim some of the more expensive items. You said you had an iPad? Well, it doesn’t hurt to try. Then another thing you can do is look on Craigslist and at pawn shops and see if any of your jewelry turns up. Do you have a picture of your engagement ring? A picture with you wearing it? It’s best if you can see yourself in the picture as well.”

“I don’t know—not close up—maybe.”

“Do you have any photos with you and the ring?”

“I’d have to look.”

“And how much would you estimate the ring is worth?”

“We don’t know. We never got it appraised,” Isaac said. “It was a family ring and…”

“Ballpark it. And look for a picture because it might turn up. It happens.”


“I’m sorry about this,” the officer said, giving Isaac her card.

“Pawn shop!” Laney said as soon as the officer had left and she had double-locked the front door.

“I know, I know.”

“Does she think I’m going to be driving to pawn shops around town? What exactly is their job?”

“There’s nothing we can do about it now.”

Laney groaned. “I want this whole place cleaned by a professional cleaning service. And I want you to get us an alarm.”

Isaac nodded. “You know what? Wasn’t there champagne in the refrigerator?”

Laney raised her eyebrows.

“I just figured…” Isaac opened the refrigerator doors never once thinking that the burglars would have checked in there. “Well, would you look at that? They took that too.”

“Twelve dollars,” Laney said sarcastically. “It was the high-end kind.”


“Are the bad guys going to come back?” Ethan asked.

“No, they aren’t.” Isaac was sitting on the edge of his son’s bed. He had just finished reading from a fairytale book and had put the book away on his son’s shelf.

“They took a lot of things,” Ethan said.

“I know.”

Ethan lay with the covers pulled up to his chin. He looked like he was thinking very hard. “How did the bad guys get into our house?” he asked.

“Through the door that goes to the patio. We must have left it open.” Laney had accused Isaac of leaving the door unlocked and he had accepted that it probably was his fault. He had been the last one to leave. Even worse, he had postponed and pretty much forgotten to call the alarm service used by the previous owners to activate their alarm system.

Ethan received this information calmly, with the same serious, introspective child’s face. “They took mommy’s ring.”


“You’ll have to buy her a new ring.”

Isaac smiled. “Probably. Some day.”

“They took my DVDs too.”

“I know. Do you remember which ones?”

Lego Star Wars, Star Wars, Elmo. That’s it.”

Isaac rested his hand on his son’s shoulder. The DVDs seemed to give the burglars away as amateurs—they had just taken a handful at random, not even half of them, to sell quick. What price would they get for Ethan’s old toilet training DVD?

“Can you buy me Lego Star Wars?” Ethan asked. “I liked that one.”

“I’ll look into it,” Isaac said.

Laney had calmed down and become more philosophical by the time Isaac joined her in bed. “Did you check all the doors?” she asked.

“Yes. I double-checked.”

“Could you check again?”

She was still sitting up with her nightlight on. She had closed the window shade in their bedroom although they usually left it and the window open for the cool air. The window faced a bush and was not visible to any neighboring house.

“I guess it could have been worse,” Laney said when Isaac returned. “If we were home.”

That had happened to a colleague of Isaac’s—a Lebanese woman in Brooklyn, who had had a break-in while she was in the shower. The burglars came in through the basement window of her brownstone. They had taken her jewelry too, and her laptop and her husband’s papers. She never found out if they were still in the house when she stepped out of the shower. It was a Saturday in February or March. “I was naked as a baby with this going on,” she’d said.

“These types of people—I don’t think they would have come in if we were at home,” Isaac reassured his wife. “They were looking for something easy.”

“You think they were kids?”

“Don’t you?”

Laney shook her head. “Drug addicts—kids—I hate how they wrecked the place, our home.”

“They left in a rush.”

“What did they take my jewelry box and shake it all out on the table? I still can’t believe when I came in and saw that box, even then I didn’t put two and two together. I thought you’d left it for some reason, what reason I don’t know. We were already in here, Carley, Ethan, before I even realized…”

Yes, Isaac had definitely left the patio door open on accident. After they had the alarm system activated they had two false alarms because the spring winds blew open the unlocked patio door. “Careful,” Laney’s father had warned Isaac. “Three false alarms and the cops charge you.”

Isaac tried to be more vigilant but the alarm made it even easier to forget about locking the doors. He shoved the alarm sign into the rocky ground in front of their house to put all potential criminals on notice. The sign fell over the next day. The earth was baked hard and dry and he couldn’t even push the sign in a single inch. He ended up propping it by the side of the house.

There were few more suspicious incidents that first year. Cigarette butts in the alley between Rob’s house and theirs. A lock on the alley gate was taken off and left open on the wall between houses one weekend when they were out of town. Isaac had thrown away the cigarette butts without comment, figuring they were Rob’s, but the open lock was strange and deliberate. It was a lock that opened by key, not code—the sellers had left the old key when they moved in.

“Who would have opened that lock other than the previous owner or one of their kids? She did have kids—a teenager?”

“And what? He comes back to his old house one night and thinks ‘Gee, I’ll freak them out and open this up and leave it in plain sight’?”

“Who else would have a key?”

Isaac threw the lock and key away but the feeling that some stranger had been at their gate taking off the lock was unsettling and kept him from falling asleep.

That summer someone stole the license plate off Laney’s car and replaced it with another New Mexico license plate. No one even noticed until Laney’s younger sister pointed out that their license plate used to be yellow and now it was turquoise. A cop had to come and record Laney’s information and then try to locate whatever vehicle had her old license plate. That same summer, only earlier, Isaac came home after a jog and saw a brown station wagon inching by their house. It stopped and then inched along, crawling this way down the street. Isaac stood by the kitchen window, drinking water, watching as the car turned into a neighbor’s driveway. He thought that was the end—a visiting friend or a relative of one of the neighbor’s—but there had been something odd about how slow the car had gone, so he remained by the window and leaned forward to see the next move. Just like that the car backed out and began inching down the street in the opposite direction, pausing at two neighbors’ houses. “My God,” Isaac said. He squeezed up his eyes (he wasn’t wearing his glasses), trying to spot the driver, but the car’s windows were too dark—all he could make out was that the driver wore a hooded sweatshirt. He took out his phone and headed to the door, still in his tank top and shorts from his run, prepared to take a picture of the license plate when the driver suddenly floored it, tires shrieking, and whipped the old car around the corner.

“Goddamn it!” Isaac said. He debated whether or not to tell Laney, but in the end the weird visceral sense he got from the whole episode made him want to share it with her.

“This is supposed to be a good neighborhood,” Laney said. “Good schools. I mean, the property tax alone. And now we have criminals just trolling the streets looking for anyone who might’ve left their door open.”

Isaac didn’t tell her but there had been one day in May, during spring intersession at the college, where he’d provided just such a bonanza—driven off and left the front door completely unlocked, though not wide open. There hadn’t been any wind or criminal to open the door and as soon as Isaac got home he had double-locked it of course and pretended that nothing was unusual. They left the hall light on all day now—this was another change since the robbery—because apparently on the day of the break-in they had turned off all the lights which was a dead giveaway that no one was at home. Laney wouldn’t even hear of keeping their blinds partway up like they used to. She even worried that some pervert might be trying to look into the children’s windows during their naptime, although this was extremely unlikely given the positioning of the house. Creaky noises at night startled Laney—she sometimes woke Isaac with a clenched hand on his leg or arm. “I heard a noise. Can you check?”

The house’s usual nighttime noises sent Isaac into a state of panicked alertness while Laney eased into sleep. It bothered Isaac that their children’s rooms were the first bedrooms off the hallway, more accessible to someone coming in from the front door. He had never been much of a fighter and he remembered with some distaste how a good friend of his kept a baseball bat in his bedroom closet just for emergencies. What weapon would he use if it came down to it? His metal desk lamp? The shower rod? His shoes? Or maybe he could stun them with a blow to the head from his unabridged Spanish dictionary and then incapacitate them with his dad’s copy of Anna Karenina which he had vowed every summer that he was going to read. What good was he if he couldn’t defend his own family? Laney of all people had started talking about buying a gun. She said she understood now why people wanted guns.

“But if you shoot someone in your own house, you still get in trouble,” Isaac said.

“I think it depends on what they’re doing. What if it’s self-defense?”

“If they’re poking through your underwear you can’t just open fire. You have to give them warning or something.”

“It seems pretty fucked up how much leeway you have to give someone who’s just broken into your house.”

“Maybe you can shoot them in the knee or something—just enough to let them know you’re serious.”

“You think I have good enough aim for that. I’ll tell them ‘Look, I can’t guarantee I won’t kill you so I’m going to give you three seconds to leave.’’”

“I think you ought to have some training before you handle a weapon.”

“I’ll go to the range.”

“You’re not being serious? Are you?”

In the end, Laney said no, she wasn’t serious, but your views changed after you became a victim. A friend of her father had disarmed a burglar and put him in a full Nelson and then somehow taken out his cell phone and called 911 and held the man on the front lawn of his own house until the cops arrived. “No big deal, right? You could do that?” Laney said. When Isaac didn’t answer her breath got short. “See,” she said. “That’s why we need a gun.”


For a while, Laney kept a running list of crimes that had happened to them since moving to Albuquerque. She included on this list the time a driver without car insurance rammed into Isaac’s sedan on Bridge Boulevard, decommissioning his vehicle for ten weeks and causing $14,000 worth of damage over and above their $500 deductible.

“That wasn’t really a crime, that was just an idiot,” Isaac said.

“What about the punks who robbed us? They were just idiots too.”

“Punks?” Isaac said. He was about to make a joke about Dirty Harry and this vigilante language, which was a new twist for Laney, but he held back—for him, they were punks too, punk kids. Now that he and Laney had children he sometimes forgot how much older he’d become. The children grew up but he and Laney stayed the same, as if the children absorbed their years as well. From age thirty-one to thirty-five, he’d often forget his real age—rarely did someone ask but when they did he had to pause and make sure he was answering accurately. It wasn’t like being a teenager anymore—or a kid for that matter—where your age seems to coexist beside you, always around, like the number on a jersey which you always wear and have no reason to forget. When waiters didn’t card Isaac, he got a little upset.

All that summer and into the fall and winter of the next school year, Isaac lived in anticipation of some new crime. He’d considered transferring to a different college, to a different city. Maybe it was time to move back east again. More than once Laney had joked that they’d lived six years in Brooklyn and never once been the victims of a crime. A quarter of that time in Albuquerque and they’d been the victims of at least four—a driver had dented the back of her car in the supermarket parking lot: that was the fourth.

“You guys didn’t really know you were moving to the Wild West,” said Laney’s friend Michaela one night when the kids were asleep. It was Christmas time, December 18th. Isaac had just brought home a tree from 2nd Street. The tree was bare, they were waiting for the branches to fall, but it smelled crisp and homey. Carmen and Michaela were Laney’s best friends from high school. Carmen was back for the holidays, Michaela was the only one of the three who had stayed in Albuquerque all this time. She had just been giving her opinion about the robbery. “It’s because our mayor is a lame duck now and has pretty much given up. We have less police now than we did eight years ago. When’s the last time you ever saw a cop? Think about it. There’s no incentive for criminals to stop doing what they’re doing.”

“You know,” Carmen said, “my parents were robbed on Christmas Eve, what, four years ago? Five, because I was in New York and I came home that year but not on Christmas. They took all the presents right from under the tree—my niece’s and nephew’s toys. A Nintendo Wii. My dad’s phone, because he just left it on the counter like dads do.”

“That’s right, I forgot about that,” Laney said. “And didn’t they take your dad’s iPad too?”

“My brother Hugo put on that app Where’s my phone? And him and Carlos tracked it to somewhere on San Mateo. They drove over there too—like what were they going to do, confront the guys? Same as you, they locked it, but that doesn’t matter. They just reboot the whole thing and sell it.”

“And iPads were even more expensive back then,” Michaela said.

“My parents lived in that house for thirty years. They still don’t have an alarm system. I tell them ‘you need an alarm!’ These people came into the house while everyone was sleeping—my mom, dad, brother.”

“That’s really scary,” Laney said.

“They work in neighborhoods,” Carmen said. “They stake out a neighborhood and work through like three or four houses and then they’re gone—like a cycle.”

“It certainly seemed that way here. Our neighbor Rob was robbed three months before us, right Isaac?”

“Rob was robbed,” Michaela said. “Get it? No, sorry. That’s not funny.”

“There was this suspicious van apparently. Just lurking around. Our other neighbor Erin saw it by our house the day we were robbed.”

“But she didn’t call the police?”



“She thought it was the cleaners or an exterminator,” Isaac said. But he and Laney had wondered if their neighbor Erin had been a little nonchalant about noticing the van.

“And then Isaac saw this car too—just driving super slow down the street, like scoping it out.”

Isaac told Laney’s friends about the brown station wagon—he could still feel the tug in his stomach as he recalled the strange feeling the car had given him. Carmen and Michaela listened without interrupting, their faces concerned and sympathetic.

“It’s happened I don’t want to say three times but it’s happened more than once to Hugo that he’s driven at night and the car behind him doesn’t have its headlights on,” Carmen said. “Once when he was a teenager he flashed his brights at some dude in the other lane—not anymore.”

“Gangs, right?” Laney said.

“Yeah,” Carmen said. “So one of the ways they initiate people is have them drive without headlights and the first car that flashes them they follow them wherever and shoot them.”

“Didn’t that happen to somebody in what’s that kind of shady neighborhood by Bel Air Elementary?” Laney asked.

“I heard about that,” Isaac said, when the others didn’t respond. “Only I thought it was farther east.”

“So much violence, man. You can get shot for nothing these days.”

“Like that UNM student,” Carmen said. “On Central in Nob Hill. That’s one of the best areas in the city.”

“It wasn’t like this when we were in school,” Laney said. “Was it?”

“No, it’s gotten worse,” Michaela said. Then she raised the champagne. “Welcome home.”

“That’s right,” said Carmen. “This is supposed to be a housewarming. Not a funeral.”

Later, after Carmen and Michaela had gone and Laney had put dish soap and water in the champagne flutes and they’d thrown out the nearly empty appetizer tray Carmen had brought over and turned off all the lights and locked the doors and pulled the blinds, Isaac and Laney both collapsed, sweetly tired, on their bed, now raised two feet from the ground on the bedframe Laney had ordered, which had come almost a year ago. Laney reached for Isaac’s hand. They were lying about one arm’s length apart. “I feel like it’s my fault we moved here,” she said. “I convinced you to move to Albuquerque.”

“I made the decision, too. We both did.”

“It’s far away from your family,” Laney said. “That’s hard.”

“Well,” Isaac said. “We can always visit. Maybe they can come visit us.”

Laney curled closer to him. “They should. Your parents travel much more than mine.”

Outside, some neighbors had wood fires and the temperature was going down into the twenties and the cold brought out a fresh evergreen smell and a smell like wood and grease and the places where livestock lived. Isaac had opened the bedroom window, looking forward to the freezing air and their large down comforter.

“This is home now,” Isaac said. “It’s ours.”

“We’ve definitely put our touch on things.”

On another night, Isaac would have listed the improvements they’d made—some by choice, others by necessity. But to list them now would have sounded like complaining, like bringing out old grievances. Instead he let the night air and his hazy drunkenness carry him to a place of nostalgia. All the events that had happened to their house had come out that night in conversation with Carmen and Michaela. They had talked about the robbery, the stolen license plate; Isaac had even mentioned—at Laney’s prodding—the car accident and the continuing saga with their insurance agency who had now officially recorded Isaac’s statement. All through the statement Isaac had said, “Well, I really think… it’s been over a year so I don’t remember exactly… I’m fairly sure that this is what happened…” Then he realized he was hedging and tried to be direct, as he was sure the insurance representative, Yolanda, wanted him to be. But the truth was memories changed, shifted; the way Isaac and Laney remembered the burglary had changed too. When Laney talked about it with her friends tonight it was like hearing about a different burglary that had happened in a different house to different people. Or maybe it was because Laney had finally taken ownership over the burglary and familiarized herself with all the important details and contours—the way Isaac familiarized himself with a new city—until the only mystery left was insignificant and all the uneasiness was gone.

“You don’t begrudge me?” Laney said. Her voice was heavy; she was close to being asleep. “You won’t wake up one day and think ‘Why did I ever leave Brooklyn?’”

“I don’t think so,” Isaac said. “Anyway, Brooklyn’s a long time ago. I mean, I’m always going to miss some things.”

“Coffee shops.”

“The subway.”

“Our landlords.”

“The humidity.”

“No,” Laney said. “I won’t miss that.”

Outside, a motorcycle droned by, its engine tearing into the darkness, leaving an abrupt vacancy before the night filled in again with its former silence. The neighbors up the hill owned something like four bikes and their teenagers and their friends took them out mostly to ride around the block. Another neighbor had told Laney he was going to write a petition to get speedbumps installed on their street like they had on the adjoining streets. There were a few young families living here, after all.

“I guess I’ve made a convert out of you,” Laney said.

“Something like that.”

Laney’s body went slack. She’d already pulled her hand away. She adjusted herself one final time before sleep, and Isaac rolled onto his side. The open window felt like a vulnerability now that he was facing it. He thought really he should close it. But the air was so cool and fragrant. He fell asleep with the window open.

Will Clattenburg is a writer and teacher, living in Albuquerque, NM. You can find his work in Litro Online, The Esthetic Apostle, Digging through the Fat, Garfield Lake Review, Toho Journal, The Raw Art Review, Platform Review, ELM and Typishly. He earned an MFA from New Mexico State University.

Appears In

Issue 8

Browse Issues