Roseann had left a number of things behind. She’d left her best earrings behind once, silver loops twisted with gold (neither real silver nor real gold, she suspected, but pretty all the same and matching everything, their being two metals), in a motel, forcing herself to drive up and down a highway the next morning before reporting to the high school where she taught, looking and looking for the motel that had that orientation of drive. She’d remembered pulling in sort of near an ice machine and walking three doors to the room assigned to her and the man, taking off the earrings and setting them down.
She kept her self-possession that morning as the tall guy with narrow eyes from the front office escorted her to the room she indicated—and there were her earrings, still on the side table. She thanked the man, shifted her shoulder bag and walked briskly in her heels, her skirt swaying, knowing he was watching and thinking any number of things, as she got in her car and drove to first period.
She’d also left behind a coffee maker, a real espresso machine, one of the first available, at Sam’s shore house. She guessed that it rightfully belonged to Sam, since he’d given the coffee machine to her, like an engagement ring, which he hadn’t. He’d given her lots of things, though, including—at least partially—a trip to Italy where they’d first had espresso, and the largesse of his vacation home at the shore, their relationship getting cozy to the point where she’d sewn checkered curtains for his windows and he’d purchased her a coffee machine that made foaming milk, if one could work the nozzle right, which she couldn’t seem to do. There turned out to be a number of things she couldn’t seem to do, like be a good mother and a good girlfriend at the same time, often leaving the kids behind to please Sam, and ultimately, not even being able to do that. So, after the last fiasco at the shore home, which left them both unsatisfied and a little angry and unhappy with each other, she hadn’t returned, hadn’t even bothered to reclaim the machine she’d dragged down there (he’d given it to her in her own house) so they could relive the old happiness, leaving it behind and feeling the loss of it, too, on top of the loss of Sam.
Then Roseann left her whole house behind. She took her car, with her new boyfriend, Bart, in it, and drove from New Jersey to California. There were evenings when they’d set up the tent in some National Park that she wondered what the hell she was doing, wondered about the house that she’d lived in for twenty-three years, the kids now gone from it anyway, but leaving no home to come home to. She’d snuggle next to Bart in a sleeping bag—or sometimes a motel room, when they’d spring for spending more cash—happy but unsettled, even in the San Francisco apartment which seemed temporary, like a motel, with its futon and cardboard tables, the kitchen set with three chairs they’d purchased at a garage sale. She felt as though she was involved in one of those scenes in front of the curtain while sets were being changed behind it to reveal ultimately the big story, the big picture, the real meaning of it all.
She did go back to collect the house. More or less. It was hers and when the renters left she considered moving back into it; instead, she sold it, leaving it behind for good.
Or so she thought. It wasn’t totally true. There was her daughter, who remained in the area, not very far from the house she’d grown up in, although in a different state, and Roseann visited every year, once at least, where they’d drive highways once familiar, once even past their old house, changed with new windows, new shrubs, down to a Jersey shore that had no associations, past motels of no particular orientation at all on their way to a museum or shopping center. When her daughter died, Roseann returned once more, packing up and giving away everything, carting back and sending what she wanted, knowing that no matter what she had in hand, this time she was truly leaving a way of life a life, behind.