Within My Walls
As I watch her wander around my halls, I worry. I am falling apart, and she does not even seem to notice. The glass from my big front window has been scattered across the floor. Yet, she walks over it with bare feet as if she has no concern for the shards. Even without the broken glass, the number of mice droppings should motivate her to don some shoes. Just the same, she glides as if my floors have been polished to a shine, which they have not.
There once had been a staff of people to care for me. To rub my hardwood down with oil and massage my floor with their soft cloths. Then, one day, they left. The memory that contains the reason is stored in my attic, unobtainable under the rubble of my rotting roof. Regardless, they are gone, that much I know, and she is all alone. Even the mice ignore her.
Those horrid little beasts may not bother with her, but they certainly bother me. They burrow within my walls to create their snug nests. I can hear their tiny claws scratching at my brittle bones. Unfortunately, the mice are not the only invaders that plague me.
There is also a plethora of spiders in my rafters with webs so strong that I will fail long before they do. No matter how terrible those creepy crawling creatures are, they are nothing in comparison to the mold. It multiplies just as fast as the mice and spiders do, but it is far worse.
The mold’s black tentacles weave into the fibers of my worn wallpaper. Like a hairy rash, it spreads everywhere. Although, I remind myself that it is an impossibility for me to feel, I am itchy from the inside out. An itch I cannot scratch.
The ivy has won the race against the mold, however. Having long outgrown the lattice once affixed to my porch, the vines have found their way through the cracks in my walls and crowd out my windows. The density creates an impasse for even the thinnest ray of sun or beam of moonlight to squeeze into any of my rooms.
Regardless of the darkness, she sits in the chair found in the corner of the parlor and reads. It bewilders me why she prefers to sit there. The frame of the chair has been bent in half by years of neglect and mice constantly pick the stuffing apart to pad their nests. Still, with nothing in her hands and in the dark, she seems to blissfully turn the pages of an invisible book.
The wind whistles through my vine ridden windows, and she performs the pantomime of kindling a fire within my hearth. She holds her hands over the cold air and pleasantly smiles as if she can feel the heat from a flame. She is so convincing that, for a moment, I believe I feel it too. Until a chilly breeze blows effortlessly through my broken chimney and makes my walls shiver.
When she leaves the parlor to go upstairs, I brace my staircase. There are so many broken steps that I pray for her not to fall through. Luckily, she walks very lightly. So much so, that she barely stirs the thick pile of dust beneath her feet.
Before she can get to her room, I try to shake my floorboards to startle the mice out from their nests under her bed and inside of it. Since I hardly trust myself not to fall upon her head, I hold back and produce more of a gentle nudge. I end up just waking the mice and creating a momentary irritation for them before they cuddle back up.
Even though I will watch over her all night, I know that I cannot do much to protect her. I can barely pull myself together enough to ward off the rain. Although, it weeps from my wounds like blood, it does not affect her. Oddly, the water puddles on my floorboards underneath her while she stays completely dry.
Silently, she sits at her vanity and braids her hair in preparation for bed. Before everyone abandoned us, they put drapes on all my mirrors, yet she sits at her vanity and stares at her shrouded reflection as if she can see her face.
Truthfully, it does not matter that she does not see herself, nothing changes with her. More years than I can fathom have gone by and she has yet to age. While I have taken a bludgeoning from Father Time, he has left her completely alone, like everyone else. Not even a small wrinkle or gray strand of hair.
The inconsistencies make me wonder if I do not see her as she really is. Perhaps, like me, she is falling apart, and I am just as blind to it as she is. Or worse, maybe she isn’t even real. Perhaps, she is merely an echo of my memory, playing over again and again.
For now, and for whatever reason, she continues to repeat her days within my crumbling walls, and I do my best to stand upright for her. One day, I know I will fall to pieces and she will be left with no home to dwell within. However, whether she dreams of me as I once was, or I remember her as I wish her to be, we are together for the present. Even in the harsh reality of my dilapidating existence, I will joyfully hold her in my embrace until my last splinter disappears into the ground.
Maybe even then, she will continue to dream of me.
About the Author
Jennifer Salazar has self-published three books, Tree of Hope, Among Those Who Linger, and Nestled Among the Thorns. She has also collaborated on three separate collections of short stories with her writers’ group. When she is not writing, she spends quality time with her grandchildren and husband.