There are ants in my apartment.
I watch them crawl along the tile while I’m on the toilet. I chase them along the wall and crush them with my thumb. My new apartment is perfect: spacious, open, old and inviting– but there are the ants. I don’t want anyone to know.
My Crohn’s is in remission.
I found out a few months ago, in an email from my doctor. Just a normal email, with the words thrown in there like my entire life didn’t revolve around them. Remission. I hadn’t even known that was possible. If I celebrated, would I jinx it? Couldn’t it come back? I didn’t want anyone to know.
So I said nothing, until right now. You are the first one I’ve told.
I think the ants are coming in through the walls. There are cracks, in my room, and Elizabeth’s room that isn’t her room yet, too, where they slip in under the air conditioner. See, in California cold air is a box on your wall, not a vent in your ceiling the way it is in Texas. I hadn’t known that when I moved here. I don’t mind it, though, I like the rumble. But it lets the ants in.
There are other differences. The sun rises earlier. The ocean is colder, and I spend more time alone. Less snow cones but more frozen yogurt. Driving is scary, and people aren’t as nice as they are in Texas. They honk more. But most of them believe in the same things I do, so in a lot of ways it still feels better than home.
I didn’t notice when I stopped experiencing symptoms. I guess I understood that the medicine was working, but nothing happened too quickly. It’s the way you don’t realize when you start to worry about something less until someone points it out to you. Your Crohn’s is in remission, the email starts, and then it goes on about scheduling appointments, as if the last twelve years of my life didn’t rise up and smack me in the face.
The worst part of California is that Chloe doesn’t live here. Or maybe she is just the best bit of home that I miss. Kristen and Durbin are home too, but never with the same dependability. For some reason when I ache for home, it isn’t my mom’s face that I picture, but Chloe’s. If Durbin means laughing and Kristen means love and Mom means fun, then Chloe means home. She was the saddest part of leaving.
The best part is the newness.
Someday I’ll look back on these weeks before Elizabeth moved in and I’ll be so jealous of this version of myself. Endless possibilities in every direction.
So far LA is a lot of eating noodles by myself on the floor. And I think one day when I have a table and a husband to sit across from I’ll really miss this. And I’ll miss the moth that lives on my ceiling and using my hands instead of silverware and drinking out of plastic souvenir tiki heads from Vegas because my mugs are at the bottom of a box I haven’t bothered to unpack yet.
This morning I woke up to an ant crawling across my pillow. Not in my bed now I thought, but because I am twenty-two and I live alone and I have faced much worse I rolled over and went back to sleep.
I googled “Crohn’s Remission” because I was too scared to ask anyone about it. The results were vague but clear: remission only means that for a period of time I am not showing symptoms. That period of time could last for days or weeks or years. But for now, I am better.
I buy ant traps at the store. The first store I go to is boarded shut so I sit in my car and scream. It feels better. I go to Target. When I get home I clear out the entire kitchen– I throw out all the opened food. I shake my clothes out, the ants are crawling all over my laundry. I spray the cracks in the walls and place traps in every corner. I am doing my very best. For a while it works, but just for a while.
I feel stupid for thinking that I was cured. Remission… that’s a powerful word. It strikes you when you read it. It made me think, for a moment, that maybe it was really gone for good.
But you don’t fix Crohn’s Disease. You can only control it. I still have to take my medicine every morning when I wake up. I still have to get my blood drawn every three months and put two syringes in my leg every four weeks. I feel like I’ve fought for years and I’m finally winning, but I will never beat the thing. I never get to put down my weapon and rest.
The symptoms come back. Little by little, so simply that I don’t notice it at first. It’s the way I’m used to feeling. Some cramps, diarrhea, fear of eating too much, fear of leaving the house. I forget it isn’t normal. I don’t realize what I have lost.
The ants come back too. But this time in fewer numbers. I’m able to stomp them out before it gets out of control, and I don’t feel so overwhelmed. People don’t put enough weight on knowing what you’re up against. Every once in a while I flatten one with my thumb, just to remind myself that I am bigger.
There is no Chloe out in LA. There is no Mom, there is no Kristen. There is only Shannon in this apartment and a couple hundred ants. I live here now, but that doesn’t make it home any more than calling it remission means my worries are over. They are both just words meant to comfort.
But I have bigger plans than being comfortable.