28 August 2014
I am a house
I am a house.
This is what I said to him while rounding the street corner, trudging up the sidewalk on a day that by 10 a.m. was pushing one hundred degrees, our clothes and mean-looking squints sticking to our skin.
I had spotted it up the hill, its peachy countenance and clean white trim. The little house encased by a gleaming, half-height black fence. We felt we knew it. And we were pulled by some ineffable force. The longer we stared in admiration at it, the more it looked unreal.
(The familiar slowly becoming unfamiliar, which is the very definition of uncanny.)
Or, no, I retract that. It happens more suddenly. A quick zap! -- and you are abruptly, (perhaps too) keenly aware that you are, in fact, standing in a neighborhood in which you do not live, staring at a house you do not own, or even know who owns.
(And you may ask yourself...well...how did I get here?)
Ah, that you were so blithely cool about this reality before you were zapped by it. But now you are writing about this, aggrandizing the obsession, which is possibly -- or absolutely -- the story's stranger halve.
(You remember that your father always corrected you -- you didn't get the larger half, you got the larger portion. You always wonder what portion of stories, having been made up, decides the line between a story which is true and untrue? Did she see the bird fall from the sky like that? Does it matter?)
But, it has reminded you of something -- or stirred up the memory of some yet unlived dream (which is closer to nostalgia than remembering), and it makes you feel something you haven't felt in a very long, long time. And you are, after all, hand-in-hand with the one you love. And: Is a tandem daydream more or less acceptable than one conjured in solitude?
Together, you start to imagine the Life Interior. (And the Life Imagined is always idyllic.) Washing dishes, hanging clothes out to dry, sweeping dead leaves from the stairs, a pile of mail growing by the front door. You extrapolate your idea of the inside from what you see on the outside. It is a nasty habit.
Passersby would see the two of you, the girl in the red dress and the boy in plaid, pointing at its various features -- the little window, the oval in the door, the tin mailbox, the lamp, the curtained awning -- would maybe call it leering. And are you? You don't want to admit it -- but you wouldn't do this if the owner were sitting on the steps, after all.
But paying a thing some attention, some admiration -- you would rather live your life this way, have your motives be suspect, than to otherwise march on with your head down, never to take in, always to push out with your small, flat feet heading one way, unhindered by life.
And you are no middle-distance runner, but either a sprinter or a meanderer -- vacillating always between extremes. And so sometimes you will say things -- I am a house -- because your admiration can't approximate its beauty, your long-windedness only distracts. But for what it's worth, this statement, which is both entirely false, and entirely true, and also neither -- I am a house -- at this moment (in spite of its trueness and untruness and neitherness) is, exactly right.