By Hugh Fisher
Four walls surrounded us on the wrong side of sanity.
The doors continued to sway from my entrance, and with each mesmerizing swing came a thick swell of emotion. It’d been too long since I’d last visited, and yet the room felt as if it were filled with the same recycled air I’d breathed all those months before.
She was at the edge of the bed, a look of confusion drawn across her face. Something about my being there had captivated her, unsettled her, perhaps even fright- ened her. I couldn’t be sure; I didn’t know what to expect.
Absolute silence. It was the first time I’d ever experienced it, but it wasn’t as beautiful as I’d imagined. Only the carts of medication rattling past the door managed to crack the crystal quiet. And even that wasn’t so much a sound as it was a tremor sent through the floor that quaked beneath us.
Everything was white. Everything in the room was so damn clean I wouldn’t touch any of it. It was unnatural, I thought, to be that correct—everything in its place, wiped fresh of all meaning.
To my right there was a window, and on the sill rested a fading plant. I could tell it missed the real world simply by the way it’d grown—contorting itself up against the stained glass, soaking up what little sunlight managed to leak through.
I looked away and found memories, on top the desk in photographs. She followed my eyes and found them, too. But no matter how long she observed them, I knew, their images would never reflect those in her mind. Then I caught my own eyes inside a frame and quickly shifted attention.
On top the furniture rested a collection of paintings, their colours quickly receding back into their canvases. Some of them were almost entirely bare, but one in particular pulled me in. It seemed strangely fresh in such a listless setting.
In the painting was a home, a familiar place with a lavish garden sprout- ing in shades of purple and blue under the sunlight. And behind the home there was only darkness. Wind, rain and sleet wiped out the surrounding neighborhood, but the beauty of this place remained untouched.
Her eyes flashed in my direction and mine dropped to the blank tiles below. I didn’t know where to start.
There I noticed the blanket lying at her feet, poking out from beneath the bed. I remembered it well, each thread hand-sewn together in a web of bright colours. Now it was tucked away, somewhere out of sight, degraded to normalcy. I couldn’t stand it.
The minutes passed like hours as I watched the sun slowly falling under the horizon like a capsizing ship. The room filled with shadows, and the fading plant was launched into a world of obscurity, its beauty more obvious than ever as it fought off the darkness. And in the solitude of twilight, dark and light became one. The cruel night was on its way, and all I wanted to do was go home, but I couldn’t bring myself to leave her.
I met her gaze, finally, and it endured in a kind of wonderment. I noticed she was smaller than last time. Completely absent minded that her hair was in a tousle, she seemed out of context in a way, an improper gear in an otherwise flawless mechanism. It was a strange feeling, watching her. It was as if the walls were closing in, and I feared they wouldn’t fit her and I both with the clean, white tension trapped between us. I probably should have left, but there was feeling there. It was buried deep, but surviving. I couldn’t tell exactly what it was, only that it existed and was of paramount impor- tance. And I wondered if it would eventually resurface, and whether either of us would recognize it when it did. I longed for her to be glad to see me. I ached for a day to come when she might glance over at the corner of seemingly empty photographs and find me looking back at her.
And, in that moment, not even the painting of our summer home could split my attention from my beautiful grandmother, because something was finally happen- ing to in her eyes—clouds were forming; they were threatening to rain.
She shuffled for a moment, as if uncomfortable. Then let out her concern, the one so present in her stare. With her few mumbled words the silence was shattered, my reality was torn, and for the first time in my life, I experienced heartbreak.
“Who are you?”