These Walls

It Looks Out, Photo by Raina Ng

She shuts her front door and turns on her old casette player, the way she does when she needs some comfort. Those childhood tunes fill the room and welcome her, hugging her and takes from her the heavy cloak that is her bad day.

She looks around and sees her grandmother on the rocking chair talking. She watches the old lady gently kiss the ends of her antique bone cigarette holder. The old lady draws and lets the smoke settle at the bottom of her already ashen lungs and tells her tales from them good old days while spouting smoke from her narrow nostrils. She sits and listens to the cackle of the cigarette, before its end turns orange and slowly disintegrates into dust.

She still sees her. She smiles.

The chunky black and white television sits next to that grandfather’s clock down the hall. They have aged, as the old lady has. But unlike the old lady, they remain, the clock still chimes on the hour. the television working intermittently. In the dining room sits the round dining table she does not use anymore. She feels too small for it.

She remembers the days she used to sit shoulder to shoulder with her brother.

They would all be home by dinner, all thirteen of them. Around the table they would squeeze, sometimes talking, sometimes arguing, sometimes laughing, sometimes crying. On a few occasions there were fighting, screaming, but rarely. It used to be so noisy, the sound of cutlery and slurping, chewing and burping, and the spits, the excited chatter of people with mouths full. They had happy times.

She still hears them. Sometimes.

She feels them fading. She had started to forget that she had once complained about not having her space, not having that moment of silence. Now she only had echoes of the hollow house to listen to. She sits watching the pendulum of the grandfather’s clock, waiting till it strikes ten. She turns off the casette player, puts down her book and head upstairs to her room where she curls up on her bed in fetal position and falls asleep, lulled by the silent murmurings of the house that groans and creaks with age.

The house, its walls possessively protect her the way it once protected the crowd of thirteen. It had grown more possessive of late for it knew that without her, it would be without purpose, covering nothing but old furniture and black and white photographs. Without her it would the old empty house in the corner. It moans, grieving the emptiness, longing once more for the noise and the warm blood that once occupied its core.

Since its occupants began dwindling, it would stand sometimes frustrated for she, the lone Madigan, was only a petite being, small, unintrusive and quiet. It would struggle to hear her heartbeat. It is only at times when she, lonely and longing, would press her ears into its walls, that it would feel the heat of her body. Then it would respond by trembling so she knows she is not alone.

Sometimes she would run her hands across the wooden walls that held much.  She was envious of these walls. These walls had witnessed more than she had, holding stories, secrets. They hold the happier times of her childhood days, and know the tunes to her childhood songs. They sang the tunes of her grandmother’s childhood songs. These walls bear her memories and more, they bear the memories of the string of Madigans that had gone before her.

Some days the desire to absorb all that these walls hold would grip her and she would stand face to face with the wall, pressing her breasts, her heart against it. Then she would listen long and hard. When she hears nothing but its hollow echoes, she would pound on its surface with her clenched fist. Then she would sob uncontrollably. The walls would hear her cry, and comfort her with gentle rocking.

Some days she whispers her longings into its foundations. That adamant longing to know what they knew. The longing to swallow, to consume these walls and then hide them in her middle so she can keep these memories deep within her. She would whisper them until the earth turns and whisper them as night creeps over the house. She would whisper them until sleep comes upon her.

Outside the wind howls and the house began answering her desperate cries. As it pours all that it bears into her sleeping soul, the stories of the past would intrude, and the souls of the dead would climb into her dreams and relive their lives before her eyes.

And she would keep dreaming these lives, until she fades.

Joining them on the other side of those walls.

Of these walls.

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