I’ve searched for love that was like an empty house.
I spent my early twenties arriving on crumbling porch steps, stumbling into half-open doorways, trying to find my bearings on worn-down floorboards that creaked under the weight of me. My stays were always brief, punctuated by numerous attempts to illuminate a place I eventually found would shine, just not for me.
I passed the time by setting one vertebra at a time on the splintered living room floor, staring through a patched roof at constellations that passed like fleeting fireflies on a warm summer evening. When it rained, my feet found puddles. And when the morning came, I would do it all again.
Eventually, the walls would close in, and I would find myself peeking out of the door I had once used to enter. It was time to leave.
I hadn’t always been a wanderer.
But there was something comforting about inconsistency. My travels proved that love was incomplete, splintered, painful. I sought refuge in places I couldn’t build for myself, content to rock on the porch swing of a love that had a great deal of potential energy but no forward motion. It was safe. Safer than being locked out.
Safer than being locked in.
Eventually, love wasn’t an empty house so much as a constant state of immeasurable flux, marked by a few terrifying moments of swimming in my own disbelief. Like I was somehow managing to drown in a bathtub and didn’t realize that I only needed to sit up in order to save myself. But I couldn’t sit up, because I had in some way been convinced that the bathtub was my porcelain reality and that the house I once sought no longer existed.
But deep down, it was there. It had always been there.
By my mid-twenties, I learned to burn down these houses. Within a year, I got better at it. The houses burned white hot, radiating heat through my body, exploding in my chest. I accepted a stream of substandard opportunities that I believed were meant for me. How could they not be? I had lived in these houses. I had traded years and tears and energy for their upkeep. I had mortgaged my own worth to have a place to rest my head.
Because wasn’t that love?
The answer is no.
I learned this as house after house began to crumble down around me. The rubble ran through my fingers, becoming finer in grain as it formed miniature pyramids at my feet. I had been left homeless, hopeless—a wanderer with no destination.
I backtracked, seeking the footprints that would send me somewhere familiar. But the whole landscape had changed. The fires burned out. The smoke cleared, revealing a path I had never seen before. I was still in search of home, but the home wasn’t love.
Love was just a room. And I was coming home to myself.
Author: Carrie Noel
Editor: Emily Bartran
Photo: Author’s Own