I found this listing: ‘Dmitry Samarov (20th/21st C), Bookshelf #2, O/C’ while searching for something else. I clicked through after making sure the link wasn’t spam and saw a painting I’d totally forgotten about making. It was part of an auction to be held in the coming weeks in South Carolina.

Under provenance: Purchased from Judith Racht Gallery, Chicago, IL, for $500.

I don’t care much for this painting and find it surprising I allowed it to be shown. This was back in 1997 or 1998. The show it was part of was a forgettable experience all around. Perhaps the only notable thing is my prices have gone down rather than up in the intervening decades.

I don’t know who bought the painting because the gallery didn’t bother to keep records of such details. I reached out a few years ago hoping to track down the buyer of a couple sketchbooks and found out this confounding factoid. Out of sight, out of mind, I guess.

What it made me wonder is how much else of what I’ve made, said, or done has been forgotten. The internet is good for sometimes burbling up fragments of discarded past this way.

The same week I found the auction entry, a visitor to my Buena Vista show revealed that he’d recently bought a house in Beverly within a couple blocks of where I used to live. I looked up the old house and was greeted with a weird surprise. The address and exterior were the same but none of the many interior photos featured on the real estate site were remotely familiar.

The sunny generic decor was galaxies away from the way my ex furnished the place. There’s a good chance that these photos were stageset and perhaps even digitally doctored but the uncanny valley feeling of disconnection were undeniable. I kept scrolling through the pictures trying to match them up to my memories with little luck.

In ghost stories, past occupants haunt houses they left under unhappy circumstances. If that’s remotely true, whoever lived in this house after me would have gotten spooked shitless over and over again. A lot of misery embedded within those walls. The listing said the house sold for nearly half a million a couple years ago. That would be one sale after my ex sold it and for a lot more money. Perhaps the saging, exorcisms, and deep cleaning worked. I still get the creeps biking anywhere near the place.

Every dwelling with a bit of age is at least a little haunted. Something of every past occupant must linger one way or the other. What confounds me looking at the scrubbed-clean realtor images is that if the street address weren’t included I’d never have recognized these rooms I spent so much time in.

No realtor in their right mind would point out the worn away bit of hardwood in the living room where a dog had repeatedly urinated or the spot in the yard where a beloved cat was buried. Their job is to present a place full of possibilities rather than one full of baggage.

What their photos show is a house no one has ever lived in, whether happily or otherwise. I found the drawings, paintings, and photos from my time there and have juxtaposed them against these capitalist fictions. No one would buy the house from my visual keepsakes, but selling it wasn’t ever my intent.

Among the detail photos included with the painting they call “Bookshelf #2”, the auctioneers have included one with a smiling woman. She’s probably just there for scale but I wonder who she is. Is she the one who owned my forgotten painting these last twenty-five-plus years? If so, why is she now selling it? Maybe it belonged to a relative who recently died and she’s tasked with dispersing their property.

I always hope to come upon one of my paintings at the thrift store while looking for frames. It will mean it has gone through at least one full cycle of its life and been spit out the other end, to be reused or otherwise disposed of. I guess an auction is a higher class version of the same thing.

This is the first of a series of conversations about a friend’s harrowing childhood.