I dream of your house often.
Musky, earthy mold tickles my nostrils as I climb the stairs from the garage; gradient
gray speckles on the pale blue wall like a black and white butterfly emerging from a
cocoon of damp. Each step creaks under my slippered feet, a plaintive rhythm beating
the cadence of my ascension back into childhood. Crack, crack, crack. The wobbly
wooden railing scratches my palm; I hold it too tight for fear it might disappear.
I reach the kitchen. The hours of days gone mingle as your long, flowery dressing gown
floats from the cooker to the counters; a plate of croissants, piquant coffee grinding
tintamarre, butter cuddling homegrown shallot, then a pork chop joining their embrace.
The sizzling feast titillates my constricted throat.
The living room door groans as I push it open. Beeswax greets me; warm, lustrous,
slippery with whiffs of our evening chocolate treats. I find a hidden door in the pretend
fireplace that obsessed me as a child. It takes me to the attic. The forbidden kingdom.
You never slept on the top floor, so you didn’t know.
Sleep evaded me that night. The open window let in traces of freshly cut grass mingled with an ethereal mist of soil, mushrooms, leaves. It was those empty dark hours when all is quiet, allowing one’s own thoughts and melody to be heard.
The mattress on the bed was too soft. What had always been a comfort in childhood swallowed me whole that night. The quilt and all those extra layers you insisted on adding to fight the chill of darkness pricked my skin like tiny beaks taking nibs at my limbs. I kicked them off; the bed now an empty nest of torment, a witness to my spiraling grief of memories lost.
When the pacing in the attic began, I held my breath, ears prickling. My body grew still. The rhythm soon soothed me like a sweet lullaby pulsing alongside my sorrow. Chocolaty. A melancholic smile uplifted the corners of my trembling lips.
I knew it was him.
I dream of your house often, and I wonder.
Now that its flavor lives in the past—a tasteless store in its place—do you haunt the place together?