The day after my husband moves out, I tell my daughters, busy doing homework, I plan to go for a long walk. Instead, I take a short walk, to the beer and sausage place in the Mission. I order my favorite double IPA and read a chapter of a novel. But it’s extremely windy: the rickety wooden structure, built to accommodate outdoor dining during the pandemic, sways and rattles; the Christmas lights strung on the makeshift ceiling to give it a festive air chatter like teeth. I worry that the roof will collapse on top of me, and though it seems too flimsy to do serious harm, I reluctantly begin walking home.
On the way back, though, I make an impulsive detour. I decide to visit the beautiful Victorian farmhouse on the corner of Mirabel Street that, eighteen years ago, when I was divorcing my first husband and had not yet met my current, just departed husband, I tried to buy. My real estate agent attempted to talk me out of it. It would go for way over asking price, she warned me, and besides, it was a money pit. It needed a new foundation, a new roof, at least a couple hundred thousand in long-delayed maintenance. Still, I persisted. My bid (just above asking) was the lowest of eleven bids. “A learning experience,” Joan, my real estate agent, called it.
I stand for a while admiring the Victorian farmhouse. It’s more beautiful than ever. When I tried to buy it, it was extremely dilapidated; it looked like a haunted house. Now, it’s freshly painted white. Whoever lives there, unlike me, clearly can afford it.
I look at the frothy lace curtains in the living room windows. I remember how my husband, who just left me, and I once walked here, because I wanted to show Ethan my lost house, and he said, “Sure, it’s beautiful. But the house you bought instead, our house, is much more practical.” That moment, I felt like someone who made smart choices.
But it’s too windy to stand there any longer, so I walk home, which means, from that location, walking up a rocky, exposed hill. A pinecone flies at me as if someone has taken aim; the elements seem to possess malicious intent.
I walk more quickly. My neighborhood is notorious for being the windiest in San Francisco, and June is the windiest month of the year. I remember that when I first bought my house and moved in, alone, the wind blew so fiercely that I was afraid my new house would blow down. In the middle of the night, I called the husband I was then divorcing, and told him that I felt like one of the three little pigs in a house made of straw. He assured me that I was safe, not one of the pigs. “It will be okay,” he said.
Shortly after that night, I met the man who has just left me. As I walk the last steps home, I think that my practical house is, after all, made of straw.
I insert the key in our sticky lock, which my husband, before he left, kept promising and then forgetting to oil. My older daughter opens it. “Mother!” Louisa says. It’s a new affectation, to call me “Mother,” instead of “Mom.” “Your hair is all twirled! You look like a soft ice cream cone!” I worry that this girl will grow up to be, like me, an impractical, artistic sort.
“It’s very windy out,” I explain to Louisa, whom I’ve been concerned about, how she will cope now that her father has moved out.
She smiles and says, “Oh Mom–I love the wind!”
Kim Magowan is the author of the short story collection How Far I’ve Come, forthcoming in 2022 from Gold Wake Press; the novel The Light Source (2019), published by 7.13 Books; and the short story collection Undoing (2018), which won the 2017 Moon City Press Fiction Award. Her fiction has been published in Booth, Craft Literary, The Gettysburg Review, Smokelong Quarterly, Wigleaf, and many other journals. Her stories have been selected for Best Small Fictions and Wigleaf’s Top 50. She is the Editor-in-Chief and Fiction Editor of Pithead Chapel. www.kimmagowan.com