The Vineyard

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The narrow staircase seemed to hold a collection of mismatched stairs, torn from many different houses and stapled together precariously. Each time I unsteadily placed my foot on a step, I worried about falling straight through. Would I crash through the splintered wood and fall straight down onto the downy sand? It was a possibility – the house sat, sunken, on Inkwell Beach, a thin stretch of shore overlooking the ferry dock. The tiny window at the top of the staircase afforded me a view second to none in the world; perfect wave after perfect wave washed over the jagged jetty, the natural guardrail that divided the public beach from the unsafe ferry dock. Backing away from the window, I moved into the first bedroom on the right. This was to be my room – roomy enough, I’d been told, for my visiting friends, but cozy enough that I wouldn’t mind being the only one sleeping under its low ceilings once they had said goodbye.

Upon entering the bedroom, I was smacked with a strong and altogether pleasing sensation – the dull, heady smell of seawater and washed-up seaweed, mixed with a specific, unique scent of dust-filled, long-forgotten folded blankets and dried hydrangeas. The scent was familiar. The door to the room had been shut, impermeable to the elements from September to May. Once my fair, uncalloused hands pushed open the heavy door with its chipped white paint, the enchantment on the room was broken – the color rushed back into its cheeks and its memories of summers long gone were unlocked. By the end of the summer, my hands would be tough and sturdy from hours logged manipulating the paddle of my kayak and the bedroom door would swing a little easier on its hinges, unstuck by hundreds of slams. The room and I would be well-acquainted again and the air in my lungs would be exactly the same as the air swirling in and out of the open windows.

The shape of the room lent itself to slumber parties. The two halves of the room were intersected by a partition, but they were connected by a wide balcony outside each of the doors. During the week that my friends would come to visit, we would spread ourselves all over the room. In the space between the partition and the doors to the balcony, a fluffy down mattress was spread so that one more person could camp out on the floor. In order to cross from side to side, we left the doors open and padded across the scratchy wood planks of the balcony, always barefoot. The smallest crack at the top of the partition, just an inch of space, let us talk to each other from opposing sides of the room. When one group’s room was dark but the other’s was still illuminated by a lamp, the softest yellow light glowed into the dark room. The comfort of that light as I fell asleep was warmer than any declaration of love.

In one half of the room, a brass bed frame devoured the majority of the space. It was situated underneath an enormous, out of place but beautiful painting of a swimming hole somewhere in Asia, done entirely in black, gold, and green. If one was to sit up against the headboard in bed and lean one’s head against the wall, one would end up hitting the ornate black frame of the painting. A simple white dresser sat, catty-cornered, opposite the bed and provided a surface for a small, useless fan and my plastic hairbrush. A mirror, encased in a wicker frame, hung over a chest of drawers right next to the door. The second and third drawers were extremely tricky to open and often caused a frenzy of flustered cursing when I couldn’t manage to pry them open. The fourth drawer refused to close, not even an inch. I used it to store my summer books; hard-covers (on the left) stood tall with their spines exposed to show the titles, while paperbacks, at right, were piled unsystematically.

On the other side of the balcony, the room took on a different atmosphere. Two low twin beds squatted underneath a slanted ceiling, colorfully embroidered white quilts floating upon their mattresses. A lamp with a clay base, painted white with a blue sailboat, lit up the already-bright space with a dim yellow bulb. A cheery blue throw rug was supposed to sit between the two beds, but had no traction on the hard wood floors and often ended up on the opposite side of the room. The room held no other furniture besides an extremely small wardrobe, barely big enough for someone to hang a few short sundresses on its rack and pile a few pairs of sandy flip flops on its warped wooden bottom.

A slatted vent in the floor must have served a purpose at one point in time, but had become obsolete by a new heating system. Still, the vent went straight through the floor and served as a way of communication between the upstairs and the downstairs. Lying on my belly, yelling into the vent that no, I did not want to walk into town and see a movie, but yes, please bring me back an ice cream, mint chip, thank you, always made me remember the joys of sitting on the floor, Indian-style, like a child. I’d sit with my back against the footboard of the bed, legs stretched so far as to be able to rest my feet on the balcony, and smile, knowing that such a place as this existed.





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