“I’m not sure about that pantry,” I whispered as the realtor led us out of the kitchen.
“Why not? It’s a good opportunity to go through all your cooking crap and get rid of some stuff.” Perry grinned. “Hoarder.”
I gave her a little shove with my shoulder and grinned back. The tour finished in the living room, where we were brought back full circle. I glanced around at the bright room, feeling light and airy myself.
“Well, what do you think?” The realtor was cheery, in the desperate way realtors often are.
“It’s great,” I said, as Perry nodded in agreement.
“We really love it.”
“That’s great!” The realtor bounced forward on his toes, eager as a puppy.
“We can draw up the papers today if you’re ready to make an offer,” he said, rifling through the stack in his arms. “Just be sure to sign at the bottom that you were told about the girl who lives in the closet.”
There was a moment where Perry and I consciously did not glance at each other.
“Could we, uh, have a moment?,” I said, imitating a grin. “I just want to check out that breakfast nook one more time!”
I dragged Perry into the hallway.
“Um, did he tell us about the girl who lives in the closet?”
“I don’t think so?”
“I mean, I feel like I would have noticed if he had mentioned a girl living in the closet.”
“I feel the same.”
“So….what? Do we pass on the house? It can’t be that bad right?”
Perry sighed and looked around.
“This house…it’s just so perfect. It’s everything we’ve been looking for.”
I gave myself a mental tour of the house again, from the large master bedroom, to the almost perfect kitchen (minus the too-small pantry), the living room with the beautiful bay window. It had a lovely yard and two small guests rooms, one of which would be ideal for my home office. It was the perfect house. After months of searching, we had finally found our home. Was a girl living in the closet going to keep us from our dream home?
We moved back into the living room, where the realtor was waiting expectantly.
I smiled and wrapped my arm in Perry’s.
“We’ll take it.”
For the first few months, it was quiet. The closet remained empty, and we didn’t see or hear from any girl. We were cautious around it at first, but because it was in the master bedroom, we couldn’t very well not use it. It was large, and we soon began filling it with our clothes, shoes, scarves, hats, various items we felt we would need but not immediately. If what we were doing was disturbing the girl in any way, there was no indication.
When we first moved in, I had spent a few listless hours searching online for any information about the house. There were only a few scattered blog posts with titles like “ghost girl living in my closet!” and “I couldn’t get out of this house fast enough!” But the house had only been occupied by a few different families in the last 10 years, so it couldn’t have been that bad. I figured most of it was click bait and ignored it.
The realty office was even less helpful. Even though the presence of this girl was enough to warrant a clause at the end of the contract that stated we were fully informed of her existence, they couldn’t say where she came from, who she was, or how long that clause had been attached to that house.
Perry and I would joke about it every once in a while. We would even scare each other, one of us hiding and whispering or jumping out, scaring the shit out of the other while laughing maniacally. But because nothing really happened, we didn’t take it seriously, and after a while it was forgotten.
One day I was working in my office when I heard a creak from the ceiling above me. Grinning, I snuck out of the room and up the stairs as quietly as I could, giggling silently to myself. It had been weeks since the novelty of scaring the other had worn off, which made it the perfect opportunity to bring it back. I hadn’t known Perry would be home so soon, and I reveled in the thought that I was the one to think of scaring her first.
I reached the top of the stairs and peered into the bedroom. I couldn’t see her, which probably meant she was in the bathroom. I crept on the tips of my toes and rounded the corner with a leap, my face scrunched and my hands clawed.
She wasn’t there.
Disappointed, I wandered back into the bedroom and froze. There was a girl standing in the open closet.
She was maybe about 11 years old. She was wearing old jeans and a long t-shirt with some indiscernible logo faded into the front. I had assumed the warning was about a ghost, but the girl looked solid and whole and frighteningly alive.
“You’re out of Pop Tarts,” she said, and turned and disappeared back into the clothes.
I ran forward, ripping clothes off hangers, pounding on the back wall. Was there some kind of Narnia back there? Where was she hiding? How did she get in? But there were no hidden panels that I could find, no secret passage. She had appeared and vanished as effectively as the title screen of a movie.
Flustered, I sat on the bed, staring into the ominous space. I absently picked up my phone and called Perry.
“Hey, Ivy? What’s up?”
“So you know that girl that lives in the closet?”
Do you ever feel like you don’t belong? Like the things you think about yourself are incorrect? People insist you’re one thing but you can’t believe them. You don’t believe them. You constantly feel like you’re fooling everyone, including yourself.
I’ve been thinking a lot about activism lately, and my right to call myself an activist, specifically when it comes to climate change. I’ve been struggling a lot with the idea that I’m doing enough, and simultaneously that there isn’t any way for me to do more. I don’t call my senators enough, but even if I did I have the feeling one of them isn’t ever going to do what I want. “But if enough people did it, they would be influenced to do it.” Unfortunately I don’t have that kind of faith in democracy. It has proven itself to be fickle, that there is a contingent of people who go into politics for reasons that don’t involve listening to their constituents. But I should still do it. It doesn’t take that much effort.
Greta Thunberg was in Denver last week, and I chose not to go to the climate strike even though I had the day off work. Part of it was because, while I believe Greta Thunberg is doing amazing work, there are others who are also doing incredible work who are not getting the same recognition, like Jamie Margolin and Mari Copeny. I can’t help but wonder if they are not getting the same attention as Greta Thunberg because they aren’t white. When activism is neat, and involves nice and acceptable civil disobedience, it is celebrated. When activism is closely tied to the issues of white supremacy, colonialism, Indigenous rights, trans rights, when activism isn’t nice and neat and acceptable, people ignore it, degrade it, condemn it. I’m still learning which voices I should listen to, which I should elevate, which I should scrutinize.
I also decided to not go to the climate strike because I didn’t think it would change anything for me. I do what I can. I live in a small place and I am conscious about my electrical and water usage. I want to invest in a composting toilet. I recycle what I can. I take public transportation when I can.
But there are so many other things I should be doing. I should bike to work. It’s close enough. I should not support organizations that are extremely wasteful, like Amazon and Major League Baseball. I could be shopping local, never using plastic bags, not buying items that come in disposable packaging. I could only buy organic foods. There are so many things I could and should do.
And it’s not always easy. I am making much less money than I was a few months ago. I am paying off medical bills, student loans, a mortgage. I don’t have health insurance. Because our society doesn’t support the efforts of environmentalism, it’s not easy or inexpensive to do everything you can to prevent further devastation.
But it’s also not all my responsibility. Corporations and governments should be doing more. They should have more regulations. They should make changes, not just because it’s fashionable but because it’s right. Because they are the ones that have caused so much damage. Not that individuals haven’t done enough damage. We didn’t think it would happen like this. We lived for years in excess, polluting the water, earth, and air. But hurricanes, typhoons, heat waves, melting ice, mass extinction. This is our fault. If we don’t do something, the earth will die.
I am proud of the work I do in the name of environmentalism, and I am constantly worrying about how I’m not doing enough. When it comes to activism, my philosophy is to balance effort vs effect. If something requires a great deal of effort for minimal effect, I am less likely to do it. It doesn’t seem worth it. If it requires minimal effort but will have a great effect, I will do everything I can to make it happen. If the effort and effect are fairly equal, I will spend time to decide whether or not it makes sense.
Activism is difficult. It requires time, energy, money. It requires cooperation. It requires the efforts of organizations, corporations, and governments to make a difference. I hope that as I continue to learn and work at it, in some ways it will be easier. I hope more people make the effort. I hope that we can change things before it’s too late.
I write for fun and to make sure my sister doesn't beat me in our blog challenge.