I stood in front of the old stove with one hand on my hip and the other shoved deep into the pocket of my fraying, quilted robe. My guilty fingers played with two stray brown buttons I’d hidden there. The bubbling water bouncing the boiled eggs I was hoping would sustain me broke the silence of the deathly quiet house.
Once as beautiful as she had been and as trusting as I had been, the house was now a tomb that had been given to me by my grandmother after she’d been called to the Heavens. The flowered wallpaper was peeling in some places…not so much because of age, but because on some days I would pull back tiny sections of the paper where I’d hoped no one would notice. (But who was there to notice? No one was allowed here unless they were capable of telling the truth. One by one, everyone had failed to tell the whole truth and nothing but. So, they’d been banished.) I thought maybe the truth was in front of me, near me, around me, planted for me by my grandma…so, in my solitude, I was compelled to find it. I’d moved the couch once and crawled along the wooden baseboards like a mouse that I hate until I found an upended corner that, had I not been in my right mind, I would have thought was waving to me. I’d felt silly in this position, it wasn’t becoming: me on my hands and knees with my butt in the air, but I’d felt justified in my actions. The truth had to be discovered. There, I’d crouched on my knees and willed my fingers to carry out what one voice in my head was telling me not to do. I’d leaned deeper into the wall, near the paper and whispered “Hello” to the waving corner. The strength of my whisper swirled the cottony dust balls into a micro cyclone and tickled my nose. My nails were already dirty and uneven; perfect tools for the job at hand. I’d picked, picked, picked at the wall paper as I had the skin around my fingernails, and peeled back the tiniest section. I needed to know what was hiding underneath. Kind of like myself. What was the mystery, the history, the pain and please God, the potential joy hiding behind those layers of ancient fabric and dried amber glue?
I was careful not to go crazy with the peeling as I had in the past because I was now consistently scolded by my grandmother’s 6ft-tall cuckoo clock which unwillingly covered the secret tear in the fabric behind it. I didn’t want the couch to get in on the action, too. (Who knew what it was capable of doing.) I’d peeled the parchment back slowly, waiting for something to appear, hoping for the yumminess I could scoop and hold and rub into my skin like warmed body butter. I held my breath and there, there behind the paper, there it was again. Nothing. But wood. Wood? Even in the shitty depths of its grainy ancient dried out veins, it offered nothing. It was a dead end of hopelessness. Where were the layers of paper with patterns of the past which would foreshadow the behaviors of the current? Where were the different colors of paint underneath the foreshadowing layers of paper that could provide the color to my moods as absorbed and transmitted by occupants of eras gone by? Where were the glue and the sweat and tears and trickles of blood that held it all together for me to find it in this very moment of truth that would explain to me why I was the way that I was based on the way people had been? Where was it?! I wasn’t about to be fooled as I had been by the piece behind the cuckoo. I knew there was more to be uncovered, to be revealed, learned, explained, unleashed, freed, warranted, accepted, acknowledged, unearthed … seen. I’d kept tearing and tearing, searching until the bird in the clock warned me to stop. But it was too late. I’d gone too far. I’d stood. Brushed the clinging dust from my robe and gently pushed the couch back against the wall hoping not to wake it. I’d become embarrassed by the dirt under my nails as I’d stepped back. Bad move making that couch an accomplice. I’d secretly known this might happen when I’d first crouched into that unbecoming position.
The couch sighed awake and grinned at me. The buttons, the two big brown round buttons in the centers of the swamp-green cushions were beady eyes. Eyes that bore into me with mirth and greed while its crooked mouth wanted to twist itself and say something really mean to me. I’d stepped forward and hastily rearranged the seat cushions, attempting to shut it up; but now it frowned. It frowned at me with disgust and contempt, as my grandmother would have done had she still been alive to see what I’d done – was doing – to her now-dying home. I’d kicked the couch. It kicked me back. I’d lunged at it; tearing its eyes out. I couldn’t have it taunting me like the clock was about to do in just a few minutes. I’d snatched the blanket from its back – it was the one she’d used to cover me with when I’d been a kid and all was right with the world. Like Zorro’s cape, I threw the blanket over the beast and shrouded my dirty deed with it. The couch had been silenced. Thankfully. Temporarily. I’d calmly swept away the spidery hairs clinging to my damp brow as I thought about the last time anyone but me had sat on that thing. It was the last time they’d all tried to tell me nothing was wrong. That everything was ok. And would be for all time to come. They had lied.
I squeezed the brown buttons in my pocket and thought about what I would do with them later. I laughed. But I wasn’t sure why, so I turned up the flame under the pot and reached for the handle and jiggled it a little. The eggs continued to bounce around. Suddenly, one cracked. Just like me.