Walls

By
My fingers tingled a little as I ran them across the countless tiny holes in the wall, each indentation marking another pushpin, another month I’d had my calendar hanging just above and to the left of my bed. It had been on the wall in my room for almost my entire life. Though the calendars would change each year, the holes stayed, minuscule imperfections in the otherwise uniformly-patterned deep azure wallpaper. I still looked back on the day I decided on it, the white stars on the dark background, and then the band of brightly colored cars that raced in an endless circle around all four walls.

Catching myself before my mind wandered too far, I abruptly ripped the calendar and pin off the wall and threw it in the cardboard box that I had been slowly filling with anything worth keeping for the past two days. The sharp movement had left a grotesquely crooked scar among the perfect circles, but I had stopped caring about how the room looked months ago. It wouldn’t be mine for long.


Eight months earlier, we sat down around the table for a family dinner, something that had become a rare occasion in the past few weeks. We were all there, my mother, my younger brother and sister, and even my father, who had come home early from work, presumably so we could feast together on the mediocre meatloaf my mother had prepared. We were all happy to have him, though, and the meal began as any other would have. Then the news broke. There would be a new addition to the family. My mother, whose last experience with childbirth had been eight years ago, who had either thrown out or given away all the toddler toys in an attempt to make the house look somewhat modern and stylish, and who I had long written off as too old and too tired, was pregnant.


The baby was due in September, meaning I still had about a month to get my old room cleared out, but I couldn’t wait. My life was falling apart, slowly but surely, and it was all I could do to keep myself from going completely insane. The biological time bomb had been set, and the nine months were almost up. Swept under the rug and sent under the ground, I, being the oldest, was granted the opportunity to sleep a full two floors below the next beating heart until I left for college.

In a desperate, naive attempt to salvage whatever could be saved from my previous life, I refused to throw away anything. All of my books, my posters, the random assortment of models and childish collectibles that I had had on my shelves for what felt like eternity, were thrown in boxes and moved down to the basement. The star- and car-covered walls looked lonely and bare without the old decoration, like a child sold out to slavery, stripped naked and left out in the open for public humiliation and judgement, its innocence shattered. The part of my room that had been with me longer than any other ended up being the only one that I couldn’t drag down to the basement with me.

I made sure that everything in my new room was arranged as close to the way it had been upstairs as was possible. I couldn’t stand the idea of changing things from how I’d grown up with them. The walls, however, were left unadorned. Soon after moving in, my father painted the room a dull light brown, almost like the color of dirt, though slightly less exciting. Once they were dry enough, I covered the walls with my old posters and pictures, but it just wasn’t the same. The Harry Potter posters I had bought at the Scholastic book fair in third grade just ended up looking foolish in juxtaposition with the bare, blank, boring shade of coffee-colored emptiness that surrounded it. They wound up at the bottom of an enormous pile of stuff I’ll never find a place for in my new closet, along with the old drawings and pictures of cartoon characters.

The room I had worked so hard to preserve had, within a week of my moving in, changed completely. As the walls of my old room upstairs were painted a bright, light blueish color, the holes left by my years worth of calendars filled in to make room for many more upon the arrival of my brother, my new cell remained bleak and somber. My pathetic attempts to hold tight to my childhood, my aversion to changing even one aspect between my new and old rooms, felt almost laughable when surrounded by the cold, hard stare of the brown walls.

For the first few weeks, I avoided going down to my room; the walls would depress me and the fumes from the fresh paint gave me headaches. Once the baby was born, though, I took to spending more and more time in it, relishing in the fact that two doors and at least one floor isolated me from my littlest brother’s wailing.

By Christmas of that year I had successfully detached myself from the rest of my family, but I felt worse than ever. My immature efforts to control at least one aspect of my life left me in limbo, somewhere between childhood and adolescence. It was about this time, though, that I realized that the new beige walls had begun to grow on me, and almost subconsciously the Lego sets and plastic models that had once rendered my shelves indiscernible gradually disappeared. I, however, had only grown more miserable, until the day that I decided to change things.

It was probably January, a few months into eighth grade, and the baby was screaming as loud as ever in my mother’s arms as she tried to make dinner in the kitchen. Naturally, I took my usual escape route down the basement stairs and sat on my bed. I had forgotten to close the door to the upstairs, though, so I could still hear the crying, which was by now coupled with my mother swearing out loud as she dropped metal pots on the stone floor. I leaned back hard against the wall, but my head hit it way too hard and the baby’s yelling grew especially loud. I reached for headphones to curb the cacophony, but they weren’t where I’d left them. I took it as a sign though, and I changed my mind. My head still pounding from its collision with the wall, I walked out of my room and trudged up the stairs to see how I could help.





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