She stands in the living room, with her back to the window, a little bent over, like she’s always standing these days. It’s easy for her to make fun of herself being a living question mark, burdened down by too much drama, even though neither Ariel nor Mrs Ortiz ever found that particularly funny. Right now, she is standing by the window as usual, but is looking inside, through the living room, toward the corridor. On the little plastic table in front of the settee burns a small flame, painted green by the glass candleholder. That’s the candleholder she inherited from Ariel. It’s also the only source of light in the room. She stands by the window, with her back to the view, and looks at the shadows gathering in the corridor that leads to the kitchen, as daylight makes way for dusk.
There’s no need to look outside, is there? No, no need. So many years she spent looking out of that big, white-curtain-framed window, down the street, beyond the tall buildings and their twinkling lights, where strips of white beach and green ocean can be guessed, sometimes seen. It is a good view – a view she’s soaked in countless times as she would stare out that window for hours on end, waiting, imagining, listening, hearing the murmur of the deep dark waters.
She knows that view and that sound better than anything in the world. When she closes her eyes, she hears the steady and deep hum, she sees the view; there’s the big, black skyscraper to the left and the palm trees right below, embellishing the street, lining the mosaic-like pavement. One of the trees was once hit by a car; the dent in the bark is still visible, and it has stayed crooked. Mrs Ortiz predicted that the tree would die, but since then, twenty-four years have passed, and the tree still stands, even if it has changed. It has adapted.
It still stands there now, crooked and damaged but very much alive; there is no need to check. There has been no need to check for a while, now. She can’t quite recall when she understood that the need to check had gone, that it is no longer relevant to keep looking, that the palm tree and the skyscrapers and the people down below will still be there, regardless; at long last, she sees it. It is more of a feeling than anything else, this realisation, and she doesn’t quite have the words for it, but she knows that it is true nonetheless.
In the hallway, the shadows gather. The little flame on the plastic table flickers, even though all the windows are closed. Hasn't Ariel fixed that strange, hard-to-pinpoint draught? Has he? She can’t quite recall. He tried; she remembers that much. She remembers that she told him that the draught kept blowing out her candles. He was a little angry at her for the lack of a candleholder, telling her that this was a serious fire hazard, and the next time he came around, he brought her the little green candleholder. It was his grandmother’s, then his mother’s, then his, and then hers. She didn’t want to accept it; he insisted. It is her heirloom, now. It is the only tangible heirloom she still has, anyway.
She stands with her back to the big window, sees the flickering candlelight from the corner of her left eye, and watches the gathering shadows. Usually, she would stop staring out the window just about now; she would stop watching life teeming down there in an endless current. She’d pull the curtains shut, turn on the standard lamp with the beige lampshade that stands in the corner, and sit on the settee to read a book. She was reading a little while ago, though she cannot quite recall where in the book she stopped. Has she even put the bookmark back in? It doesn’t matter. She’d know it, were she to open it up again. Not now, though. No, not now.
It’s getting darker, but that isn't so bad. There is something peaceful about the dimness, about the silence in this room, about the steady stream of background noise that rises up from the streets below – the hum, the murmur, the rumble, the whisper, the echo. Even that is muted, far away, soothing and yet insignificant. It is hard to explain. She likes it, though. It feels as if she were on a tiny island in the middle of the endless ocean, all by herself, with nothing but her own thoughts for company, but strangely unburdened by them. It has been a long time since that has happened, and she is grateful for it.
To her left, the little candle’s flame flickers in its holder, and it doesn’t matter if Ariel has managed to fix the draught or not. The memory of him handing this beloved little heirloom to her surfaces. She can almost see the oval-shaped, green glass object in his big, weathered hands, as well as the smile on his face – the one that crinkles the laugh-lines around his eyes even more. Warmth wells up inside her, and she smiles softly. That feels good, too – not heavy, not painful, not tainted. This is even more soothing than being surrounded by mounting darkness, separating her from the rest of life.
This is an island; it always has been an island. Now, though, night gathering and the ocean surrounding the tiny speck of land she calls her own are no longer threatening.
She knows that there is light in the kitchen. How long has she been standing here, dreaming, drifting, and that light has been shining, painting a stark contrast against the ocean of blackness? Maybe longer than she remembers, but then again, so many things escape her mind as of late – like the bookmark, or the origins of that strange, strange draught. It could be that they don’t even matter, these things,
Entstanden im Sommer / Herbst 2015. All rights reserved. Der Text ist Eigentum der Autorin.