An Empty House

A short story and meditation.

Up on a green hill of short grass, I will find an empty house. Beside it, I will build my own. The winds will be calm yet steady and the bricks will be laid atop of sure foundation. Mortar will cover my hands. The sun will dry my hair and more than once per hour will I have to go to the well down the hill to refill my canteen. It's funny that the wind makes not much sound since there are no trees with leaves to rustle, and yet it is always gently cooling a thin layer of perspiration, urging me onward in my tasks. The roof comes next and the boiled tar is a more pronounced step along the way to building a house. Such finality. Closure from elements of renewal and danger. Without a roof, would we build windows, or be content with a door or two? Insects make high-pitched sounds as the sun aligns into the center of the sky. Three windows, I decide. I will add shutters a bit later.

 Photo: CK

Photo: CK

Stepping inside, the cement has hardened into the ground, yet you can tell there is earth a few feet below if you listen carefully to your footsteps. Let it be all wood, as carpet collects much too much history. I am alone in this house and want something a little open-ended. Curtains to separate the various rooms. To be reminded of all I have, and also, to easily see silhouettes of an unexpected guest, who may creep through an open window on a day when it does not storm. A simple oil lamp in each corner and plenty of wax candles for midnight trips as needed. Do not look in the mirrors at too late an hour, I remind myself. The icebox, stove and big wooden chair arrive soon, as well as a sturdy-framed bed. "Friends give things away at the perfect time," I marvel aloud. Sounds travel to each room, though the heavy curtain is coated with much of it. Even the miracle of the human voice has its limits.

A dark blue is crisscrossing from the hill and pours into the house as slowly as blood coagulates. I can get used to this tempo, I admit. The temperature change of the walls makes my voice sound unfamiliar. A bright white basks the window pains and dilutes the hue, and all is still. No candles needed for tonight, it seems. Despite my careful attention, the wood is still alive, adapting to cooling and heating of the day; it creaks at unsuspecting instances as I find my bed chamber. The insects are now in nocturnal concerto mode and they must all be soloists. The linens of the bed are still warm from the day's sunlight, yet the breeze through the open window is refreshingly chilly. It is nice to have the contrasts so close together. Sleep comes eventually and it is deep and restorative.

I wake up to birds chirping on the eavesdrop, dew reflecting rays onto the brick and into my eyes. I never noticed the sound of that brook on the other side of the hill. I have a perfect view from my bedroom window. Diamonds trot across rocks and float along with the current. "Come and see!" I hear it murmur.

 Photo: CK

Photo: CK

I know the restrictions. I know the regulations and the laws. "I can't", I answer back into the morning. I tidy up, check for early cobwebs and go out the front door, locking it behind me. For some reason, I need to check it twice.

The empty house is just along a gravel path and there are flowers in the window. The roof extends over the doorway and cool shadows welcome me in and change the shade of my clothes. The door is unlocked and I step inside, and look around, surprised at how everything has been arranged. Smiling widely, I close the door and lock it.