Every house has secrets, homes have more. Some of the former residents of the home I currently dwell in have since past into the afterlife. This isn’t the secret, just a fact that closes shutters before the storm. The secrets rest in the things they left behind.
My friend took a sledgehammer to the original walls of his depression era home. He found a terrier sized plaster horse in a closet wall in an upstairs bedroom. He cracked it in half. When I asked him why he had destroyed art? He replied,
”Because I wanted to see what was inside.”
The left side of the third step from the upper landing in my boyhood home creaked. When I would sneak in and out as an adolescent, I would always step on the right side. When I go home now, I can’t even find the creak to hear.
How to jiggle a running toilet or which smidgen to adjust the hot water to in the shower can be serious business, the quality of our lives depend on it. Houses live in this way, it makes their homes alive. Empty houses must be lonely. I can tell by the unshade blocks on the walls where the pictures were removed, where the walls aren’t stained a yellow rue. A lack of stain is a pristine time capsule of status quo boredom.
I know an old lady that lives in a big house. She wears aprons to match the wallpaper. She eats salmon loaf and cottage cheese and feeds feral cats every day at six. The secrets of her house hang like cobwebs in the ambivalence of her successful children, whom she loved dearly. Their secret scars are buried in the back yard with their dead hamsters in shoeboxes.
I’ve moved a lot as an adult. The flophouses and boarding homes were infested with derelicts and wanna-be sobers. The apartments were stooped by clanking radiators that never clanked and mice scurrying in the walls. Boxed away were my memories and I lived a hiccupped life. I met a guy on the street back in those days and we shared a pint of Vodka. He showed me the box under the overpass where he lived.
“When it condemmen, you canna brake dance onit”. He said.
I laugh and hugged his molting coat and the bones underneath.
A kid I used to know lived in a two flat that used to be a brothel. There was a safe in the side of the fireplace. His father had too much curiosity and hired a locksmith to open it. The locksmith said he would do it for free if he could have half the booty. When they finally opened it, they found a book of matches and a two dollar bill.
All in a days work.
In all the old houses and railroad stations, the doors have keyholes that you can see through. Old skeleton keys clicked home one time and then were lost. For crying out loud.
Ever had a tree in front of your house that you took pictures in front of? If you never climbed it, you should have, even if it grew in the neighbors’ boulevard.
I found a mouse hole the other day. I tore the pages of an old journal filled with all my repose and stuffed the crinkled sheets in there.
Mouse food. I thought.
A bamboo hut I lived in is no more. The lower half was my latrine. It had a coral floor and a porcelain abode. A makeshift hose was the shower and sink. The top half was a spacious room with banana leaves hanging through the thatched windows. In the middle of the room was a mattress pad with a mosquito net draped over it, tucked under it, between knotted growth. I slept there for two weeks. I had a balcony that I hung my wet, salty towels from and I made a makeshift mobile out of flotsam and jetsam. I raced hermit crabs and listened to Lee Scratch Perry with the Reggae Bar owner, Pirate, next door. His dog’s name was “Reggae” and barked whenever he heard the word.
I loved that hut.
I wandered the concrete jungle of Warsaw one night and was drunk and lost. An old Babushka walking her dog prodded me to her flat and let me sleep on the couch, which was the only piece of furniture in her room. The only other amenities were a sink, toilet and hotplate. When she cooked me sausage and eggs for breakfast, I shunned my weary, selfish self and emptied my wallet before I left.
Ghosts have such a great time on account that they can’t fool all of the people all of the time. Their buffoonery is a hum chum, slap on the back sort. When they haunt houses they usually level with electricity; flickering lights and televisions, moving shadows, half rings on the cordless phone.
Yup, moving shadows mean electricity.
The biggest secret of the house is the welcome mat. Folk wipe their feet and enter a cinnamon smelling goodness with venison baking and sorrels and shallots deglazing in a fine Spanish wine. They usually don’t wipe their feet on the way out.
When you replace your welcome mat and your secrets have a home, be happy that you’re wiping your feet on something besides yourself.