The door shuts behind me. I place my boots in a pile next to the front door and step into the house.
I remember the living room used to be a pale blue, the walls decorated with pictures of forgotten people. Time has revealed that these photographs served another purpose; masking gouges and cuts etched into the paint from long ago. Music echoes from deep within the walls of the home, growing louder and louder with every breath I take.
There’s a man playing guitar in the corner of the living room. People are huddled together in small groups across the floor, each with a drink in their hand. The room has the visibility of a dive bar, a fogginess mixed with dim lights stretching from wall to wall, but I spot a short woman who looks familiar. She’s dancing beside a large group of men, her face flushed and her eyes distant. She grabs hold of a man’s arm to steady herself and gets a shove from the girl beside him, causing her to topple over. The music dies as she falls away, taking the people with it back into the walls, and leaving me alone once again.
A rocking horse sits in a dusty corner of the room, made of a hybrid of rattan and wood. Its wiry arms are frayed and broken, twisting thorns that sprout in different directions. I brush my hand across the splintered rattan.
This house has changed since I was last here; my past, with the pots and pans, washed away, forgotten like the people who once covered these walls. People and pictures that were so familiar as a child are foreign now. Each room has lost its colours, its life-force replaced by a pure white that encompasses everything.
A familiar scent leads me along a short corridor into the kitchen. This place used to have walls that were grey like the morning after a storm. Or has the filth clouded my senses? I find myself rummaging through cupboards for a reason I’m unsure of. Each drawer opens with a puff of dust, filling my nostrils with pungent dirt but revealing no secrets.
There’s an oven with three burners missing, resting against the wall opposite of me. Once a pale yellow, the oven has been stripped of its beauty, time tearing away its clothes to reveal patches of chrome and rust. A television comes to life in another room and I exit the kitchen, leaving behind the smell of peanut butter cookies and frying bacon.
The bedroom is bare, all the furniture and personality swept from it, the warm maroon shade stripped from its walls. I don’t hear the noise anymore, but somehow I know that this is where it began. In the room’s closet lies a grimy plastic bag with a few baseball cards spilling out onto the hardwood. I reach into the bag and pull out a toy car slightly larger than my hand.
It looks like it's from the ‘30s, a spare wheel fixed on the side fender, with the licence plate number 541. The wooden car is rough and hand-crafted, but doesn’t seem to have aged much.
A television sparks up behind me. Two children are lying on a bed facing the television. The boy is slightly older than his sister, and is rolling on the bed as he speaks.
“Come play with me outside,” the boy says.
“I just took a bath,” his sister replies.
“Come on, Grandpa said we could.”
“I don’t want to get dirty.”
“Fine then, I’m going to make scary sounds when you go to sleep.”
“I’ll tell Grandma.”
“You’re such a baby.”
The boy pauses for a moment, then begins to stare in my direction, as if he was studying the wall behind me. His sister notices his glance, looking to her side in confusion. I start to panic, thinking that he may have spotted me, but his trance breaks as suddenly as it started. The boy turns to his sister and begins furiously tickling her, causing her to scream with laughter.
“Play with me, Tiffany!”
“No! Stop, James!”
There’s a watch on his hand, a bright piece of silver that blinds everything else in the room. It shouldn’t surprise me to see the watch but it does. I vanish from the room, leaving the children to turn into ash.
It’s only when I reach the bathroom that I notice I’m crying. I dry my eyes with the back of my hand and lean against the bathroom door. There are small cuts on the faded green wall beside the sink. Next to each lies a series of numbers. 44” 12, 45” 13, 60” 15. The bathroom mirror is coated in thick dirt and despite rubbing against it with the cuff of my jacket, the grimy reflection relentlessly stares back at me. I avoid its gaze and turn on the faucet, place my watch on the sink, and splash my face with cold water. Drying my hands, I stuff my watch into my pocket.
When I re-enter the living room, I’m greeted by a man and a tiny woman. They’re both sitting on separate couches, staring at a black TV screen. Every now and then, they look in the other’s direction but never at the same time. Their presence makes the room feel even quieter than when I was alone. I step past the two and stand before a wall draped in blue and decorated with a sea of faces. Hundreds of moments, babies, to parents, to grandchildren; each telling a story that I knew, an old story.
I barely recognize the man on the couch. He’s shorter now, grey wisps replacing what was once thick brown hair. Time hasn’t changed his eyes though. A tranquil green that can calm a storm or a misbehaving grandson. He begins to softly hum to the tune of a George Jones song, which catches the blue eyes of his wife. She watches as his wrinkled hands slowly tap to the melody, his fingers calloused by metal strings and by old age. I notice the white line around his wrist, a reminder that is beginning to disappear but that can still be made out in the light. I grasp at my pocket and tightly clutch what’s hidden inside. The music fades, becoming softer and softer as I watch the singer and the dancer, as I hear endless stories pass in seconds between these familiar lovers. They don’t speak, but they don’t have to.
Cody Lirette is a man who likes a good cup of coffee. A barista by day and writer by night, Cody is currently working on a personal blog about health, nutrition, and literature. He is enjoying his second year in Algonquin College's Professional Writing program.