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Home: The Toast

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Your Childhood Home

This listing is for your childhood home, except that it isn’t your childhood home, exactly. The living room is where it should be, of course, but as you turn around, you suddenly find yourself in your bedroom instead, which isn’t right. Is it? No, you’re right – your bedroom has always been here, one wall missing entirely, with a breathtaking view overlooking a vast and fathomless ocean. Perfectly normal. You hear the sound of barking dogs in the distance, and wonder, with a strange surge of terror and delight, if you’ll be allowed to go outside and play.

Your Workplace

This conveniently located commercial space is tilting, tilting inexorably to the side as your boss screams at you to fix it before you are swept away on a tide of paperwork. You are carried off to a lush green island in the sun where everyone is happy and fulfilled.

Your High School Science Classroom

Featuring standard classroom laboratory equipment, state-of-the-art for a date approximately 15 years prior to your attendance at that school. Furnished with five rows of two-seater desks with that black, rubberized surface. You watch as wisps of white fog billow across the desktops, slowly enveloping the room, as your chemistry teacher opens the container of liquid nitrogen and beckons you to drop something inside. You search your pockets. An apple, a cup with a long, jagged crack in it, a dark, shiny beetle that immediately flies away. You plunge your hands deeper into your pockets, panicked now because you do not have anything good enough. You look into the container as though it may offer guidance. Deep within, as though at the bottom of a well, you see the first person you ever went out with, looking up at you and saying something you cannot hear.

Your First Apartment

Cozy two-bedroom fifth-floor walk-up comes complete with exuberant sense of freedom and adulthood, absentee roommate, and significant cockroach infestation. You knock and shout through your super’s door to try to get him to do something about the roaches; when he finally opens it you are surprised to discover that he has turned into an enormous insect himself.  You complain to him that on top of everything else you find his transformation extremely derivative, and he reminds you, rather rudely, that this is YOUR dream apartment, after all, and that if you don’t clean out your unconscious soon it’s only going to attract worse pests.

A Suburban Mall

Extensive retail shopping complex with no current tenants, returning to the market. Number of anchor store units: unknown. Total number of units: unknown.  The flickering lighting system cuts down on your electrical bill and adds a certain ambience. This space features a fully-integrated PA system, or at least you think it does; you keep hearing a faint buzzing sound you can’t quite locate, somewhat like an amplified mic left on. Incredibly spacious: you never noticed how sprawling, how labyrinthine shopping malls were until now, did you? How windowless?  An abandoned retail shopping center is called a “greyfield,” you recall, because of all the acres of grey, empty space surrounding it, distancing it from other places, other human activity. There is a sign posted further down the corridor you find yourself in; the lights flicker again as you approach it, squinting hard at the lettering until you suddenly realize you can’t read. The buzzing grows louder.

The Room You Lost Your Virginity In

Please note: this listing is just for the room itself, and does not include the rest of the building it is in, which feels like it has fallen away entirely. This intimate space measures perhaps 300 square feet, but somehow seems both much smaller and shockingly wide open. It brims over with authentic, even overwhelming period detail, such as the spot of chipping paint on the doorframe that you found yourself focusing on – couldn’t have been for more than a minute or two, probably – when you weren’t sure where to look. The room also boasts your virginity itself, which continues to be lost in the couch cushions along with handfuls of loose change.

Their Hospital Room

This single-occupant hospital room is equipped with up-to-date amenities to make their stay as comfortable as possible. And then there are the bouquets. The bouquets they received during their stay here – longer than anyone could have expected – have multiplied infinitely, putting down roots and sending up long green vines and oversized blossoms. The room is filled floor to ceiling with vegetation, thick and damp and still, sticky with fragrance. You must push your way through it until you make it to the foot of their bed. They look up at you, with eyes full of love and pain and a terrible clarity that you know wasn’t actually there at the end, and you feel that bottomless grief rise up in you once more.

A Perfectly Fine House

It’s a perfectly fine house. Tan, maybe.  2 or 3 bedrooms, something like that. Stairs going somewhere.  Doors that lead to rooms. Oh, and hardwood floors! Yes, gleaming hardwood floors, beautifully preserved, in every room. You inhale the aroma of lemon-scented floor cleaner as you lean in for a closer look at the impossibly gorgeous, spiraling wood grain, which forms patterns more intricate than any you’ve ever seen in wood before, patterns like old lace. The well-polished floors shine so brilliantly that the firelight is reflected almost as well in them as in a mirror. Oh, right – the house is always on fire. All of it. You hadn’t noticed the flames flickering all around you at first. You are sure this will not be a problem, and return your gaze to that gorgeous floor.

A Difficult-To-Assemble Tent

This affordably-priced tent, purchased during an online sale and not yet used in real life, is in your dream situated on the campgrounds of a national park you and a motley assortment of friends, family, people long gone from your life and perfect strangers appear to have driven to. This tent will provide what feels like hours of frustration, as you struggle to read the instructions, hammer in stakes, and install the poles with a mind-numbing level of detail and a clumsiness akin to working underwater. When you finally get it set up properly, you lie down inside, looking up through the suddenly open ceiling to see the glistening night sky inviting you in like a pool lit up at night. With hardly a moment’s hesitation, you and your companions dive in and swim among the stars.

The House You Will Grow Old In

This is the house you will grow old in. You only have a moment to look around – the light is hazy, but warm – and then everything shifts and you wake up, and forget.


Katie Naum tweets @october31st; read more at katienaum.com.

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