Essay Trace

On Kent Street

Kelsey J Barnes on the house she grew up in, the memories she's taken with her, and the mark she left behind.

by Kelsey J Barnes

I can still remember seeing drops of blood up the stairs and down the hallway. I didn’t really realise what they were until my ears picked up on the frantic voices and screams that I could hear as I got closer. After following the blood trail and the sounds, I realised I was being led towards our tiny bathroom. My sister, barely 6 years old at the time, was propped up on the bathroom counter while my mother gallantly applied pressure and tended to the wound created after my younger sister slit the tip of her chin after falling down the stairs of our home.

Then, right in between our bathtub and our toilet, I fainted.

I woke up quickly after with a towel tucked under my head and the vision of my sister, tear-stains down her face, calmly sitting with my mother as she held both of our hands in hers. Although that memory isn’t the first that I can recall from living in that house, it is the first that I tell when I’m asked about stories from my childhood. How, in the moment of sheer panic, my mother cared for her two clumsy daughters in our tiny bathroom in our home.

Thirteen Januarys after that, I would be the one holding my mother’s hand as we walked to our car after leaving the building where it was agreed upon that later that year, we would move. All of a sudden, everything was the last time: the last birthday where we would gather in our living room with the big window, the last summer where I would lay in the patches of clovers and read the day away, the last time I would walk through that red door. Later that year, I would sit on the cold, carpetless floor of the empty bedroom I lived in for 18 years and cry quietly, knowing that when I woke up the next morning I would be saying goodbye for good.

As I packed and boxes began piling around me I realised how much the room had grown as I did; it was both a safe haven when I needed comfort and acted as a shrine to all of the previous versions of myself that existed, from photos of myself in high school that showcased my horrible decision in wearing thick black eyeliner and the bangs I hid behind like curtains, to the old posters of boy bands and Disney stars that were once taped on my walls.

It wasn’t until I reached the floor of my closet that I saw it – a pencil scribble of a name, KELSEY, and a date, DEC 28 2006. It was low; close to the floorboard so no one could really see it unless they were actively seeing it. Vandalising my closet wall was a very rebellious thing for a 14-year-old girl who was very shy and very quiet to do. So much has happened between now and then – boys were kissed, arguments were had, friends were lost – but it felt like no time  had passed in the moment I wrote that 10 years prior and the day I found myself running my fingers along the scribble as I quietly sobbed. Out of all the memories and mementos I collected over the course of 24 years in that home, a mark on the wall of a room that sheltered me for 18 years was the one thing I couldn’t pack away and take with me.

“A mark on the wall of a room that sheltered me for 18 years was the one thing I couldn’t pack away and take with me.”

It’s been a month outside of the place we called home for so long and we’ve skirted around discussing it. My younger brother played a video of myself laughing on the kitchen floor from a few years prior. My older brother spoke about our porch, with all of its warped boards and fading paint. My younger sister mentioned the scar on her chin the other day. Now when I am asked about my old home, I will tell them what I remember, what I left behind. I will tell them of the gate that doesn’t really close properly, or when I first learned how to bike on our long driveway. I will tell them about the stain on the counter from dyeing my hair, or the third step that was the chin-slitting culprit. Or, I will tell them about the little scribble in a small closet on a wall that a young girl wrote late one December night. I will tell them how I vividly remember that night, how I brought a pillow and a blanket and thought it would be interesting to read a book inside my closet. I will tell them how my closet would never get painted, as I refused to cover it up. I will tell them that I was able to, somehow, spend the ten year anniversary of that scribble still in that same bedroom.

I will tell them that, although it might’ve been impossible to pack it away with me, it’s still there. It hasn’t gone anywhere. I can still see it every time I close my eyes.



Kelsey J Barnes | @kelseyjbarnes

Kelsey J Barnes is a writer from Toronto, Canada. She’s just learning how to be her own heroine. You can read more of her work on her blog.

 

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