Sunday, September 23, 2007

House is Not a Home Part III

There seems to be an obsession or perhaps a synergy between damaged relationships and domiciles. I look at people, picking through the detritus of their lives, the vacant wounded stare as they turn over a broken bit of crockery. Over, over, over, as if they've never seen a shard before. I have. Shards have sharp edges, cut. Drag the shard along the length of my forearm and watch the pretty design well up. And a new work of art, see! red rain on the tiles.
Oh. Oh god. Oh. Oh no. Oh god. He'll...... Oh. It does not matter what he'll do anymore. He can get mad, he can get furious. I am not there to care, to hear it. Lovely spatter pattern, burgundy on cream colored tiles.
There is other flooring. The carpet is stained. It is red, not red with blood, or at least I do not think so. Green sofa, neutral chairs and bed coverings. The walls are beige, benign. Sterile. Functional. Anonymous. Air conditioning off and still cold, despite the Florida heat. Windows open to let in the warm air, but it does not help.
This monastic cell is cold, so cold all the time. A place of retreat, prayer, repentance. A place to reevaluate a life. Perhaps a place to begin a life. Perhaps a place to end one.
The furniture is cheap, knocked around. So many water rings on the coffee table, marks of the many faceless former residents. It is a no-smoking room, but there are cigarette burns on the counters, window sill, carpet. Cigarettes bring some small comfort, or at least a five minute distraction. And sometimes a five minute distraction is comfort enough.
Hundreds, perhaps thousands have slept in this room, in this bed, one night at a time. Covers pulled up over my head, trying to keep out the cold. Alone, hanging off the edge most nights. Perhaps not quite alone as my laptop lays here next to me, constant gateway to the world outside. Its bright glow calls me. One a.m., three a.m., five a.m., I turn to check the screen. Is there anyone awake, anyone I can talk to? Can anyone hear me? Count the tears?
It is supposed to be an oasis, a haven. During the day, the three blankets are smooth, tight. You could bounce a coin off that bed. Look closer. It is worn too. No sheet to cover the box spring, no dust ruffle to cover the bare framework holding it up. All surface and nothing underneath.
The four mismatched pillows are piled at the top. Two are old and flat, lumps of padding. The third is a feather pillow which never holds its shape. It suffocates the head that lays upon it. The fourth pillow will not be used as a pillow. It pretends it is Japanese, a carved wood head support, but that is more pretense. Obvious what it is and what it is not. Everything in this room, obvious in its pretense and pretend, its simplicity and reality.
Cigarette burns, stains in the carpet, so many. Can't clean it, carpet so worn that dirt and dust are all that hold it together. You can't tell if those are blood stains, the floor a puddle of blood. Except for the tiles. They are cracked. Once upon a time, did someone pry up a tile, test the sharpness of its edge? They are as sharp as the broken china which litters the floor where I lived, in a universe long ago and far away. I sit on the floor and touch the cracked tiles gently, stroke them with my fingertip. I suck the warm blood, a frisson, eyes closed with pleasure.
There is a table, or perhaps a desk against the wall. Crowded with work files, printer, CDs, a small incense burner, it is hard to see the surface. Scent floats up from the burner, but does not cover the stale damp smell of too many bodies. The desk lamp does not work. Ironic, a light which casts no light on any subject. This room sucks it up. Curtains wide open to the sun, but the sunbeam is anemic. The room absorbs the very life from those who enter. "Lasciate ogni speranza, voi ch'entrate." Yes, abandon all hope, you who enter.
The sofa, a two seater, sags in the middle. Directly in front of the air conditioning unit, it is even colder than the bed. No. Nothing is colder than that bed, except the bed I slept in before. The freezer isn't as cold as that bed. The void isn't that cold. Hell isn't that cold.
A small white tiled bathroom. Anonymous. The shower is hot, scalding. The room fills with steam. It cannot wash away your crimes. It cannot wash away the crimes committed against you. Memories set by a branding iron, scrubbing deepens the scars.
There is a one door refrigerator, full of food. I bought it. All of it. Every last item. Is there a party in this room? Are there plans for a party? Gourmet foods, sauces, rare chocolates and spices, four bottles of wine, champagne. The two-burner cook top is scrubbed, the cleanest spot here. I have to make it clean, scour it, scrub the damned spots from it, scrub them out. This is only place in this room that pleases me, that is me. Mixing bowls, mugs, pans, wok. How many kitchen appliances can fit into that tiny cupboard? Curries, crepes, chow fun, fondue, mashed potatoes, soups, every shade of ethnic cuisine emerge from this corner. This building is the honorary dormitory for the local culinary academy, $50,000 tuition for 15 months, but mine is the only room you can trace from the elevator. Hansel and Gretel follow the scent of cookies to the witch's home. I pretend that this is a home, although I suspect it is an oven which will send me, smoke, to the heavens.
Photos, embroidered pictures, throw pillows, stuffed bears. Art attached to the walls with push pins, not even hung. Shabby attempts in a shabby room. All transient. Does anyone notice the comings and goings of those who reside here? Does anyone notice me? Does anyone care?

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