- Chipped -
The abandoned building creaks in the wind, its rusted weather vane squeaking but unmoved as a gust howls past. The dry cold ground crunches like snow beneath my feet as I trek the path upward, watching the old house like it would leap on me in a second. I reached the porch, and the chipped paint fell like snowflakes around me as I stepped firmly onto them. The wind bit at me, warning me not to near.
I was curious. I passed the house a hundred times and always, the light seemed to hide in the upstairs bedroom, the setting sun resting its weary head there until morning, the glow leaving as it closed its eyes. I wanted to see the sun in silence.
Brushing the old paint off my jacket, I stuck my hands into my pockets, and wrapped it closer to me. My eyes burned. The wrap-around porch would have been beautiful in the summer, home to the games and patter of children’s feet. I could close my eyes, and smell the apple pies they would have baked in the autumn, just as the last red ones fell from the trees. The mother whispering the secrets of fall to her daughter… “You have to wait 'til the last ones start to drop, then you know the apples are perfect.” It was almost enchantment she wove, a magic potion to make princes drowse after Thanksgiving dinner. The child ate it all up, watching the dough flake perfectly as it rolled out, the scattering of flour on the counter just like the scatter of snow that they didn’t know would come in a week. As my cheek brushed a cobweb, I started back to today.
I reached out timidly to the screen door that hung wildly on its hinges. My fingers suspended a moment from touching it; afraid whatever had eaten the warmth once pervading this home would catch me when I touched it. I laughed hollowly at my own superstition, and grabbed the door with more force than I needed. The door ached as it opened, and the floorboards moaned at its distress. Pushing back the heavy wooden door behind, the tarnished brass knocker clacked in place, and the wind rushed me inward, the warnings gone to whisper I had asked for this.
I crept in, though no one owned the property now, I felt like a thief as the memories of the old house hit me. The chandelier half hanging from the ceiling cried sorrows to me as I looked toward it, pleading to be put out of its misery. I touched it, and it shuddered softly, the crystals left hanging there dropping away from my fingers. The moments flashed in my eyes, the wife, heavy with child at the store, lovingly caressing them, as her husband watched without her notice. He bought them for her birthday, and hung the chandelier when she was in town. She had cried when she came home, the new baby clutched in her grasp, its eyes wide with the splendor of the rainbows that played in the room.
I stepped past the fallen crystals, without touching them; they looked like tears on the dusty floor. I smiled as I saw the big fireplace, swallowing hard to look into its blackness, I found tears dripping on my cheeks. Squatting down, I laid my hand to the blackened brick, shivers coursing me as I felt the pain of abandonment heavy in its stone. Pulling my hand away fast, I blinked back the tears that still ran freely on my cheeks, and stood, turning to peer out the window, the rotting trunks of old trees blooming in my vision to proud and majestic oaks once more. The rope swing played in the breeze, kissing at the tree, begging to close the separation between them.
Chills and memories slithered round me, my throat caught with the knot of a thousand happinesses not my own, and a thousand sorrows begging to be shared. Creeping back to the hallway, I looked at the worn steps, the hardwood that once gleamed now peeling splinters and shavings. They creaked in harmony as I laid my hand to the shaky banister, and stepped upward, the night soon to fall, the sun’s resting place calling me airily. God, the crying, laughter, and coos of the children that once ran the steps lilted in my ears. I blushed with their daughter as she walked cautiously down the steps to meet her prom date, the corsage in his hands perfectly matching our dress. The moment flashed by, and I saw her father turn his head to cry a few tears as she walked out the door to college, in his heart knowing it was the last time. I wiped my cheek, leaving an ashen fingerprint, and climbed the last few stairs, hurrying from the painful memory.
The bedrooms door stood ajar, my smile soft as I saw babies grow to adults in a matter of minutes, their walls littered with crayon art, to movie posters, to pin-ups. The last door in the hall was closed, the door seeming to swell with slow breath, and exhale, as if it slept so soundly. My heart beat faster, and I quivered with anticipation and fear. My hand reached out, trembling, to touch the doorknob, and for a moment, I closed my eyes, waiting for the flash of memory to come. The silence was soft like twilight, and with a blush, the house hid from me the intimacy within its walls. Pushing the door in, the sunset crept in with me, and I sighed, the glowing through the broken glass scattered to the muralled ceiling. I sank down, and watched as the light sunk to bed beneath the sheets, and curled to rest for the night in the quiet bedroom, the deep breathing of the house its lull-a-bye.
Trembling, I slipped out, and shut the door gently behind. My heart welled with beauty the house’s chipped paint and cracked walls exuded life and love. My fingers tenderly stroked the banister, that shivering eagerly for me. As my fingers curled round the doorpost, the house whispered secrets to me again, its warbled, weathered words indistinguishable from my own. Closing the door gently behind me, it begged in silence, and I smiled, whispering I would return.