Safe Space

April 12, 2018
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Travel up a long asphalt driveway, walk through the side door of a brick house, look straight ahead past the sunny kitchen and the living area, and down the dark hall lined with bamboo-printed wall paper, and you will see a door left slightly open, with a pure sliver of white light squeezing through the gap. The door itself is plastered with dried-up residue that has held up decorative signs displaying the names of this particular room’s frequently changing inhabitants.

On one particular night in December, the door conceals a perfectly square room and eight siblings feeding off of each other’s elation. Tattered quilts cover the woven circular rug that lies on top of the once tan, stiff carpet. The simple bunkbed, twin bed, and chest-of-drawers are all an artificially golden color of wood. Ideograms of teenage activities decorate the blank, white walls: pictures of teenage girls laughing together, baby blue posters of basketball teams, black and white 5k tags, and magnificent debate tournament awards. SAT workbooks and world history textbooks topple in a corner. The Christmas season has made its mark on the room with ruby-red glittery ornaments hanging from the chords on the window blinds, and white paper snowflakes plastered to the walls with wrinkled, hairy tape (recent peace offerings from younger siblings).

The eight siblings are dispersed over the beds and the floor. The six girls, in their gaiety, laugh hysterically at their fourteen-year-old brother’s incredibly un-witty jokes. The very youngest of the group, a toddler, drowsily gazes up at his older brother in strained attention, trying his hardest not to fall asleep in his eldest sister’s lap. The three youngest girls lie in the floor, trying not to ruin this opportunity to hang out with the older girls. The stimulation of the atmosphere causes them to sweat in their snowman-printed nightgowns. Two are wild-looking, with untamed red hair and chubby noses. The third, with features that mimic perfection, resembles a Madam Alexander doll. The eldest feels the toddler fall asleep as he becomes trustingly heavy, and decides it’s time for the younger ones to be in bed. They all carelessly fall asleep.

Fast forward ten years, and the room has evolved to mirror an evolving family. The bunkbed and matching twin bed are no longer needed. Two antique beds with intricate engravings of flower baskets and pearls have replaced them. New, sturdy quilts gracefully drape themselves over top, and SAT books, multi-page quizzes, and a lap top take up all of the bed space. Copies of Monet paintings are hanging above the beds, displaying with blotches of color impressionistic portraits of mothers and babies, and a man and woman walking together in a garden. Two photographs hanging side-by-side on the opposite wall depict brides posing with their sisters at their weddings. A frame enwraps a series of thin, even lines that form two elephants strolling through an African plain—a gift from a brother-in-law to the Madam Alexander doll child on her sixteenth birthday.

Delightfully fluffy carpet of a speckled tan color displaces the colorless stiff carpet. The old chest-of-drawers has been replaced with a dark, noble piece that supports an old jewelry stand supporting bits of plastic earrings and necklaces that were abandoned when their owner went to college. A coating of paint the color of a green tea latte heals and covers the holes effected by numerous tacks. An old rocking chair, refurnished with a new set of grape-fruit covers, reposes in one corner. This room hosts a crib and diaper packages occasionally, and then the rocking chair works its magic in lulling a cherished nephew to sleep. The blinds on the windows are open to let in more white light, and the remains of a ruby-red, glittery artifact hang on one of the chords.

Taking up what little floor space is left, a red-headed girl with a chubby nose slaves away at her cello practice. Her glossy white cello case stands in a corner, adorned with stickers collected over the past three years. The various music books and rosin rags cluttering the floor hide a cup of stale Earl Grey tea. She sits in a chipped, hand-me-down wooden chair with the pale afternoon sunlight refreshing her from behind. She stamps toward the door to tell her younger siblings to turn down the radio while she practices.

Once upon a time, she was one of the youngest in the original eight; now she is the oldest at home, but not for much longer. In the likeness of her older siblings, a mysterious reality will entice her away from the square room, through a wall-paper bamboo forest, past the cheery living area and kitchen, through the overused side door, and down the black driveway to unsafe spaces.






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