A Space In Which An Inner Life Is Fostered
Two-thousand sixteen was a rough year for me: I was learning to live with a medical diagnosis that included the word “disease,” left New York City because my then-boyfriend was in a debilitating accident and, with that, my salaried music industry job.
I later broke up with him because he decided to go back to New York. It was a year of sacrifices and not knowing reciprocity. It was the year of his suicide attempt and his being institutionalized. It was a year of forgiveness, of trying to mend what wasn’t mine.
To understand how I became involved at Third House Books, you’d also need to know that 2017 was a harder year: a year when the love of my life came home only to tell me he was no longer in love with me after a month. It was the year I found divorce papers under my couch cushions, not knowing he was married in the four years I had spent sleeping next to him. It was the year when I asked him, “How?” and the only responses I received were of anger and disregard.
It was the year I was left crying on the floor not knowing how to pick up the pieces that once made up Heather. It was the year I realized that, perhaps, four years of my life were a lie. It was the year I spent with my hand clutching my chest, hoping I wouldn’t have another panic attack. It was the year my mother sobbed on the phone and asked why I wanted to be sad. It was the year my father called daily to know I was still breathing.
Two-thousand seventeen was also the year of beauty. It was the year I learned how to read a book each night to quiet the voices in my head. It was the year I ripped myself open, learned how to breathe despite the weight on my chest, and was diagnosed with PTSD. It was the year I gave birth to my own clarity. It was a year of Ativan, Klonopin and Prozac. It was a year of knowing that friendship holds enough unconditional love to wake me in the morning. It was the year of holy water, sleeping in white and rue.
Third House was open for six months when I first met Kiren at a book signing for Marty Jourard’s “Music Everywhere,” a book on the music history of Gainesville. Overjoyed at the news that Gainesville had an independent bookstore once again, I became a regular, often to escape my dreary situation. It became my home; after all, my ex who no longer loved me was still staying with me and being home was almost as triggering as his name is now.
Within weeks of drowning myself in chai lattes, Kiren gave me a key and asked if I could help him. This was the start of one of the most important friendships I’ve had: It was through my friendship with Kiren in which I found somewhere I could heal and escape my situation, and ultimately have the courage to leave it entirely. It was this friendship that was the catalyst in eventually becoming a partner at the store.
It was at Third House where I witnessed Kiren comfort friends and engage in charged conversations, unafraid to be vulnerable. It was where I realized third places aren’t merely a space where you sip coffee and read a book; it’s a space in which an inner life is fostered. I knew it was sacred when I first visited and bought “Adventure Time” stationery. I decided to be like the teal walls that shelter Third House and nurture the community within them.
It was the year I arrived crying, unable to speak in real sentences, telling Kiren I threw my boyfriend’s things off the balcony after finding his divorce papers. It was the year the same boyfriend said it was my fault because I looked through his mail. It was the year Kiren told me I remind him of Bernadine lighting her husband’s car on fire in “Waiting to Exhale.” It was the year I held strangers as they told me they, too, were assaulted. It was the year I learned to be unapologetically vulnerable. It was the year of new book smell and crying at open mics.
It was a hard year: the year I fell apart and put myself back together, but without the healing space that Kiren created, I don’t know if I’d still be here.