We’ve made love nine times since Sunday morning, when the old wing of the house reappeared, and I moved back into the greenhouse downstairs. Our wing, for whatever reason, attached poorly to the proper estate with shabby craftsmanship decades ago when carriage houses were no longer needed and the stables had stood empty. It was all converted, badly, the whitewash on the floor covering the deep pocks of a poorly shod horse. There is a warp in the hallway - a place the walls divert six inches to the right, and the builder tried to cover it with dark wood paneling - and I’ve always found it comforting. The strange warp of six inches, maybe hiding two studs he needed to support the roof. I think I loved it because I could imagine Adam being that hapless architect. It was messy in a way that we were messy, as a family, and the clock face has always smoothly glossed over and made fantasy.
Your room in this wing is small and crippled with trinkets of your boredom; many unwashed cups of tea and animals bones strung with wire. Your room is unpainted and dark, lit with your usual storm lanterns and there is dust on the windowsill where I used to sit and read. You’re in the room I used to share with Adam, but you’ve skinned it to the bones and rid it of the copper paneling he used to threaten would bring the lightning down on us.
When we lived here once, the days were long and full of storms. The clock upstairs was a regular hallway of regular rooms until walls were torn out like ribs of a sorry animal to make way for a studio which housed a smaller group of wayward angels. I bit my tongue back hard enough to bleed and listened to you play music which sounded like everything I’d always wished to hear.
I’ve had a spell cast over me, you know, and not by you. It was Adam who did this when he redecorated the greenhouse and put the apiary behind the new garden. It was Adam who dragged me into this summer. He told me so last night, when I went to his room now at the opposite end of the hallway. I knocked softly and he answered, but didn’t let me in because Nicholas was sleeping.
There should be a word for the realization you’ve always been in love with someone. Is that Epiphany? If we wound a hundred clocks, we could never be lucky enough for them to all go off at once, but here we are, waiting for Nicholas to wake and the sound of ticking slipping out from under the doors of every room. The fast shadows of the clouds passing over the sun to block the heat change his face, and mine, to people we used to be or never were.
He told me he would walk me back to the greenhouse when I asked him, “Are you making honey?” He was shy, and serious. He didn’t look much older than a boy.
He showed me where he’s been storing it, in jars under the big sink. I thought to myself that I don’t really know this man, even at all. I don’t know anyone, least of all myself, or I would know why I feel the way I do, when wandering these rooms which are like second nature with their thick motes on the air and mists in the deepening gold shade.
All I could tell you after was that I was going to die, and I am. I don’t know why I needed to tell you this, except to wonder if this is how you paint the world with your wordless and unabashed ego. Instead of dying, I’ve decided to take the shirt you gave to me and saturate it in the sweat and blood of this summer and keep it for you that way.
The way the Basement was always it’s own world, attached to this one by magic, I know that the wing we now inhabit was moved from somewhere else, and we’ve returned there. This wing was added as an afterthought and we are only now discovering it’s origins, thick with the brass of you, your battered trumpet leaning in the hallway against your door like a warning of what’s inside.
Down the green and gold washed hallway I walk, the door to Brad’s room open, the space inside dark in the daylight. He grins at me from the dark, the air smeared with the smell of dry hay. He’s wearing a shirt the color of old brick, bleached under the arms to a lighter salmon pink. He hasn’t shaved for days and his beard lays soft along the ridge of his jaw.
Your scars pucker a curiosity when you smile, wearing a red and gray vest I think was a costume from a musical where you played a tin soldier.
“What were you doing?” I ask you both, and you produce for me, from the cup of your four hands, a dead finch with a yellow crest. Across the hall, Adam’s Victrola moans high like a woman fainting against his tin chest, to hit hard the hollow place he is missing a heart under his wilting collars.
The toilet flushes. Rosie’s hair turns blonde, and ashen gray, and dusty pink, and blushing mauve as she crosses light and darkness. There is sleep in her eyes.
“It’s probably diseased,” she says, her voice almost gentle, and I try to remember if we’ve all done this before, or have been puzzling over this dead bird for the last 2 years since this wing was torn down. Time flows toward moments where there is deeper space, like water. There are places you were always home and places we never had a right to change this place to suit our needs.
Brad’s cigarette thickens the air as a shaft of gold falls across Rosie’s magenta eyes and her pupils contract as she leaves the room, brushing close to the boy I’ve become as fast as her hand clasps mine and releases it again. My shoulders curl in your flannel shirt and
They will crush the bird,
These jackals of fleet hand.
Stinging tendon strung taut
And plucked from root to thread.
The mushrooms in the garden
Toppling white as the ivory keys
He buried with its hollow bones.
The paper bag crunches until the wet soaks
Attracts four hawk’s eyes
And crook noses.
Listen to them swift the leaves at night.
The same as they shimmy
From the rattling pane of my window.
I’ve become a paper bag,
Wet with rain,
Harboring our outgrown uniforms
Love letters unsent,
Ragged tennis rackets.
I collect at the corners
Like a flood left me behind,
Cemented in rivermulch.
I collect their dead birds.
I spread them out beneath the ivy.
They will never notice the bodies gone,
Until I arm myself in feathers to meet them.