He woke again in a panic as if he was being attacked but it wasn’t a nightmare that woke him in the cold darkness. It was a memory that pulled him out of sleep. A memory that lurked below the surface and a day never went by that it didn’t show.
He stood naked in the cold and wiped a circle in the mist on the window and peered at the street. It was dark but for the streetlights and a hint of ultramarine in the sky with the stars beginning to fade. He could hear the hum of distant traffic, of people going to work so he knew the sun would soon rise.
He went to the bathroom and held himself steady against the wall while he peed. He was drowsy but it was too early for coffee and his work day was hours away. He wanted to return to bed but he knew that he would not sleep and that he would be tired during the day.
He dressed in thick socks and pants and a heavy dressing gown and went out and lit a smoke. He watched a man walking briskly along the street, with his hands tucked into his pockets and a bag slung over a shoulder. He heard the screech of a train braking and the crunch of tyres turning on gravel. He heard the footfalls of someone running and the low rumble of a car warming up under the building. He listened to the magpies calling and greeting the morning.
If only he could live in the moment like the birds, he thought and live each day as it came or plan for the future but the past clung to him like a worn shirt. Each day was an extension of the last and every day before that going back to the time when he had made the big mistake.
He had betrayed the one he loved and he hadn’t dealt with it and the guilt and remorse held him firmly in the past. He prayed that he would wake one day to find that it had never happened. If only he could forget but as memories faded, the remorse had not. It had grown stronger like a tumour. Unnoticed at first until it took hold and in time had become a part of the small movements of his days.
He returned to his bed but sleep eluded him as it always did. So he put on the coffee as he always did and dressed.
The old wall remains,
And it’s shadow.
Hidden in the darkness is memory,
but our friends only see stones,
not the shells in the soil, or the bones,
that are buried on the hill.
It was an old house.
The enemy knocked it down and left.
They are friends now, but the trust is fragile,
To dust, those crumbling walls we’d tear them down,
and build with bullets in the mortar to remind,
of passing wrongs.
But would those walls be strong.
Under the stair things lay hidden and forgotten. Waiting for a cleanup, a distraction or a fire to end things. There is no concern for time. It waits and never worries. The stairs creak and groan and dust falls.
There are pictures of kids growing, long buried. 8 track movie reels and a brides dress, faded and unloved. Under there is a portrait of the builder, when he was a child with his girl sister in spats and lace up boots and a wide brimmed hat. Under there is cold and damp and dark except for a dusty beam. There are tiny spiders with pins for legs and piles of cockroach shit in dried up leather shoes that will never walk again. There are puppets, cars, a stroller and headless dolls. Boxes of shiny christmas balls and tin soldiers waiting for war. A bicycle rusts silently lamenting it will never be ridden again. A rifle sits on a rack near the antelope it shot which stares at the unopened door with it’s glass eye.
Under the stair are dried up memories that can fill a child’s mind. A mouse raises a family. Under there is a distant sound of a crow squawk, echoes of running, a shout and a muffled baby cry. The echo of a television and of lovemaking.
Down there the paint peels from the wall on cobwebs and layers of dust with no footprints. A broom hoping to sweep it away, old ladders and cans of paint.
The old house is sold and these memories find a way back into the world. sold off and cast aside. The musty smell is torn asunder by the smell of fresh paint. The old rusty tins look on jealously, they waited but they weren’t needed in the end. There is rocking horse and a chair the people use. They sort through the memories with rubber gloves, dust masked inquiry. Astonished .