Building Family (S1 E1)

Season content notes: transphobia mention, ableism,

The house was silent, an echoing silence that belongs in the depths of night. One that comes when everyone sleeps: no footsteps or music, no dishwasher running, no occasional sound of someone bumping their toes or closing the door a bit too hard. Silence is supposed to exist in the space between sounds. This silence seemed to echo, the absence of noise growing louder with each moment that passed.

Emeka had lived with the silence for two weeks. He had tried to break it — blasting music, stomping up and down the stairs, talking to himself. But the silence always waited. It ambushed him when the music stopped and echoed in the moments between his footsteps. When he first moved back into the house, he had hoped the silence would grow comfortable. That it would become the relaxed silence of being in one’s own company. It never did. It was always the loud, sharp silence that said one was alone.

He had been 18 when his parents kicked him out. They had ‘done their duty’ until he was officially an adult but wouldn’t put up with his ‘perversion’ one moment more. He hadn’t spoken with his parents again. Hadn’t even known they died until their lawyer got a hold of him and told him they left him the house. He’d thought it was some kind of sick joke at first, but no. All the paperwork had been under his dead name, of course. That he would have expected — if he’d expected to be included in their will at all.

Memories haunted every corner of the house that had once been his home. It was those memories that made the silence so loud and so painful. His father’s voice telling Emeka to get out and don’t come back. His mother’s tears the day he came out to them. The urgent late-night whispers as they planned how they would ‘fix’ him. There had been happy memories too, once. But the silence drowned them out.

Needing to do something, Emeka pulled up YouTube and turned the speakers up to 11. He knows it won’t work for long, but he’ll take anything he can get.

His ‘My Mix’ on YouTube started with K’naan. The auto-generated playlist was feeling old school. He closed his eyes and let himself rock on the rhythm of “In the Beginning.” He tried not to listen to the lyrics, just let the music hold back the silence enough that he could relax.

Maybe he should sell the house. Take what he could get for it and go. It wasn’t like he had any sentimental reason to hold onto it. He’d only moved in because his lease was ending in a month anyway — he wanted out of that shit hole as fast as he could manage it. He had no idea what it would sell for or how to go about selling a house. But that’s what the internet was for.

As he pulled up a new browser tab, a new song cued up. Shakira, singing about “try everything.” He found himself singing along because how could you not? He’d been in a funk since he moved in, barely leaving the house except for work. There had to be other options, right? It wasn’t just… live with this shit or sell out.

He’d been handed a free house. Almost literally free — the mortgage was paid off, and the estate covered the death taxes. After a decade of struggling to keep a roof over his head, he’d be a fool to walk away. He hadn’t seen the utility bills yet, but they had to be less than the rent he’d been paying at his last place.

There would be property taxes, though. They’d be a pain if they were high enough. And according to his landlord’s bitching, they’d gone up last year. He’d need to save up for that, and he’d never been good at saving.

He opened his eyes and found himself staring at the bright blue drapes that wrapped around the windows of what had been the guest bedroom. He’d set it up as a computer-and-game space. Less because he needed a dedicated space and more because… why not? The drapes weren’t new, but like almost everything else in the house, they were new to him. His parents had redecorated hardcore, and he first thought that would help him get used to living here again. Instead, it added a level of weirdness to the whole thing.

Even with his income, he could easily afford to live here. But making it a home, a place he was comfortable? His money wouldn’t run to redecorating, making it his home; instead of his parents’ place he’d never been welcome in.

Emeka shook his head and closed the browser down. What he needed wasn’t to get rid of the house. It was to get out of his own head. Living in an apartment or boardinghouse there were always people around. Always someone carrying groceries up the stairs or blasting their music too loud. You never had a chance to feel alone because someone was right on the other side of the wall.

Really, it was kind of ridiculous to have this whole house for one person. It had been a big house for him and his parents; they hadn’t exactly needed a guest bedroom after all. Maybe that was the answer — invite someone (or someones) to move in and share the place. It wouldn’t be so silent, with other people around. And those people would add their own stamp to the house, whether or not they could afford to redecorate.

His stomach rumbled. He grimaced and stood up, heading for the kitchen. The cabinets were almost empty, but there was plenty of mac and cheese. He couldn’t manage much in the kitchen, but even he could usually make pasta without too much trouble. He needed to go to the store and stock up on frozen dinners or something tomorrow.

Maybe he could get someone to move in who knew how to cook. Really cook. He would happily trade laundry duties — dirty underwear and all — for a decent meal a few times a week. More than one of his partners had teased him about being a cheap date — double whatever they usually made for dinner, and he was a happy man.

Yeah, finding someone to share the house with might be the answer to his biggest problems.

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