She sat down on the bare single mattress, and then started reading again.
“Look out the window at the sky. Whether nightly stars, clear blue, or laden clouds… curl your knees to your chest, and keep looking. Now look at yourself. Look at your legs, your hands, your feet… what do you see?”
She glanced out the window. Then around the room and at the closed door, as if expecting someone to walk in even though the house was empty. She looked at herself, just as she’d read, running her hands over her legs and feet, then staring at the palms of her hands.
“What do you see?” she read it again.
“It’s you. Little you in a big world. I did that too you know. I thought to myself: how small I am. How small I am that you’d think of me. We are not giants in this world… although our spirits may be.”
“I saw you walking up the lane at the back, outside. I also liked to do that. It’s because of that lane and the field that I bought the house. Even when it’s dry and brown in summer, I still go. There was a fire once, burnt half the hillside. Can’t remember how we put it out… All I remember is that people came out of nowhere to help. When they left, and I was standing on the stoop, sweating, tired, I remember thinking: ‘that wasn’t boring’.
“I write this to explain myself. You were younger, and I could’ve told you then but these things need time to, unravel. We were broken, both of us. I could not allow your mother’s death to intercept or delay your future. This place has taught me, that everything passes. I told you, and I’m sure you noted how small we are.
Remember our trips to the beach. Remember how we watched the waves, how we fell asleep. And when we left the tide had claimed our footprints. There we saw, we saw something that has been for many years, centuries, so our visit to that shore was like our visit to this life…
In my years I have seen what time does to the human body. I’ve seen how nature will reclaim everything – but we are not our bodies – we are simply driving them – for a short while. So, do not despair, for they are not meant to last.
I write this also, to apologise. There is something I need to apologise for, and although I cannot for the life of me put my finger on it, I can sense its presence – that vague guilt of something I did or didn’t do. I am aware of the vacancies within our little tapestry of family life, but as you know, I’ve never been a good seamstress.” She chuckled to herself, remembering a time he’d called the ladder in her stockings ‘steps’.
“I love you. I agreed to you leaving so forcefully because I wanted you out of the shadow that this house was in back then. Those are probably the times when people should remain close, but sometimes proximity has little bearing on the emotions. Sometimes you can live with someone, but also just pass them by day by day. It made the time we did spend together that much more precious. Thank you for not questioning my odd ways. I did not plan it this way; I too was once again a student…
“I leave this house to you, and everything I own. You are strong woman, and I am a proud father.” She paused before reading the last line.
“Be without hindrance.”
She looked at the paper in her hands. Then she thought of that time when she looked at the house as they drove away, watching it grow smaller through the car window. She thought of the sum of material things which constituted her ‘life’, piled into that car. She thought of the goodbye with her father. Holding him, pressing the side of her face against his chest, her eyes closed, his hand on her head. She could not remember breaking the hug… in her memory, it never ended, even though she remembered him driving away in the old car, waving, and then looking at her in the rear view mirror. That picture of him through the back windscreen sat in her memory, just the back of his head over the headrest, through the window.
Her father seemed to see this place as a kind of unwanted anchor for her, a place that would hold her back. But lying there, with her eyes closed, she felt tethered for the first time in years. And it was a good feeling.
He would've wanted her to sell it, but for her, this was her one secret place, one she needed, considering all her days chasing the truth.
She took comfort in knowing that she knew how to hide from time to time. They say the truth will set you free, but for her, all the truth the world offered - she needed this escape, this truth. This was real. it may be a largely empty house, but her memories were not.
[picture credits: digitalcameraworld.com-Gianluca Bennati, aso-geopark.jp, prettylittlenest.com]
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