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The empty corpse of the house has settled into the ground, pushing down on the grass that pokes out of the dirt, the color of melted evergreen trees. It tries to make a grave for itself, but its bones are too weak to weigh down the earth to bury underneath, to warm itself with the bacteria that will eat it away.
The walls are discolored, the walls that were never really white. There was always something keeping it from glowing: the rain, the reflection from the sun, how it looked amongst the trees, and especially among the whitest of white snow that visited during the winter. The walls looked gray beside the pure white of the floor of February.
They loved that house. Large enough to fit two families and never have to run into one another. I’m sure the staff loved it, too. It was probably what working in a castle in 18th-century Europe would have been like.
Everyone in the house followed a schedule. Lazy Sundays never happened, Saturday afternoons weren’t for relaxing. As a child, I remember realizing the enforcement of the schedule:
We were outside, playing with chalk on the cobblestone that created a path from the grand backdoor into the garden.
“Two-thirty, get inside now,” she told us, arms folded, creasing her silk, tinted-blue shirt.
“But we’re not done with our drawing.” He had the puppy-dog, about-to-cry look on his face. In any other moment, I would have rolled my eyes at him, and if he had really been getting on my nerves, maybe even hit him. We were at that age, though, where we weren’t yelled at for hitting and kicking and slapping. Just a, “now, now, Alice, play nice” and a smile from one of our nannies. We never knew their names but they all looked the same to us anyway. Hed didn’t bother me this time, though. I wanted to keep drawing, too. One hour wasn’t enough time to finish my masterpiece - doodles of the flowers surrounding us, the trees that were disproportionate to the classic three-quarter sun in the corner of the stone floor. My brother and I both knew that walking away would be abandoning our creations.
Tomorrow we would come back and see that the gardener had washed away our drawings.
“I suppose it rained while you two were asleep!” My mother would say. My brother and I would glance at each other.
Why is there so much rain? We would wonder, picking up our chalk to start over, beginning the cycle of getting used to sharing the colors. We both always started with blue, especially when we drew the house.
There wasn’t any white or gray chalk in our bucket, the closest we could get was the pale blue. After ten minutes, our ideas went down different paths, our ideas used different colors.
We never saw much of the world. All we knew of outside of the house was the manicured sidewalk that led our tiny legs to the bus stop. Seven o’clock. Weekday mornings rode with the busses we traveled into school and back. Our daydreams are sewn within the seats we never gave up, the seats that were ours and no one else’s. As we grew, the seats grew with us, always seeming just a little too big for our sore backs they never comforted. We were too small to touch the plastic-covered bus floor with our feet, we rested them on our multicolored backpacks if we weren’t delicately clutching them in our arms. I remember how my hands looked against the bright yellow zippers when I took out my books in class. Seven-thirty. My unmanicured nails shone pink when I pinched the fabric, scrambling to be the first one ready.
Regardless of what the teacher told us, I wouldn’t believe her when she told me I would grow. I didn’t want to imagine my little hands growing any bigger than they were. I didn’t know my mother for anything but the top of her legs, I didn’t know the house for anything but the drawers I could reach and the dining room tables that were always a challenge for me. It’s not how I thought it would be. I didn’t wake up one morning, suddenly too big for my bed. The slow progression was strange, I realized it once it began. The effort I put into climbing our treehouse decreased with time, I no longer needed a personal lower cabinet in the kitchen, I hit my head on almost everything I tried to walk under.
I never tried to run away, but as I grew older I felt more and more trapped. No one let me leave: not my mother, not the nannies or the housekeepers, the chefs or the gardeners. “You have the world within this house. You just don’t realize it.”
It was overwhelming. I wanted to have friends, I wanted to watch movies outside of the “comfort” of the movie room, I wanted to buy ice cream on the pier, take walks in the parks, buy my own clothes in stores, I wanted to learn how to drive a car and visit somewhere that wasn’t within walking distance, all of which I knew were out there.
I haven’t heard from my mother after moving out a few months ago. I’m not sure where my brother has planted himself, but I know he’s in a city. The last I heard from him was my birthday, just recently. He has friends, an apartment, a job, most of which I have not managed to obtain yet but I’m sure someday I will.
I didn’t go back to say hello. I didn’t want to run up to the door and ring the pearl-shaped doorbell and hug whoever opened it. I just wanted to see it, pity it, and keep on driving. The last thing I expected was to see it rotting.
It’s almost as if my brother and I were the ones who ran it, and without us, the house is nothing. If my mother bought a different estate, I wonder why she hasn’t sold this one. It has everything: a pool, front yard, a back yard, a kitchen fit for a professional chef, multiple bedrooms for a giant family, memories to age it with grace.
I suppose she refused to see anyone else living in it. That house was hers. It had always been her house. If she couldn’t have it, nobody could.
I put my hands back on the wheel of my car, feeling the leather that lined it. I adjusted my posture, closed my eyes, preparing to finally leave everything behind. I take one last glance.
The door of the house opens.
I’ve only seen him in pictures.