By Elizabeth Jacob, Contributor
She heard her slowly and stealthily climb up the stairs but the creak of the floorboard in the second to last step gave her away.
The teenager threw her head back and groaned realizing her attempts to silently go to her bedroom were thwarted as she heard her grandmother call her name. Upon entering her grandmother’s bedroom, she found the room in a dilapidated state; papers were congregated in heaps stained yellow and tattered with age. Exquisite wooden birdcages hung from the ceiling, their residents gone in search of better days leaving nothing but an exterior shell of rotting wood and peeling paint. The desk beneath that cascade of cages was littered with old bound leather books with their spines unravelling while delicate apothecary bottles encasing a variety of dried coloured inks were scattered about the desk. Cloths of intricate beautiful patterns and textures that were thrown upon a beaten truck were now sagging onto the floor, their vibrant times fading into memories. The room always deem seem stuffy to the teenager; it was as if a bazaar had spilt its life contents into the small area leaving no space untouched. The window in front of the desk was left open allowing the summer light and muggy air to breathe life into this jumbled disarray.
She walked over to the four-post bed with its draping mosquito netting resembling a canopy of spider webs. She called her grandmother’s name and from beneath a beige-coloured sheet, a pair of glistening eyes peered at her. Her silver white hair was painted over the dark blue pillowcases and her crinkled lines at the corner of the eyes were among the first things the teenager always noticed. Hands reached out from beneath the sheet and gently grabbed the teenager’s hand and she could feel the warmth even through the thin skin and bony fingers. The guilt building inside of her was too overpowering, so she climbed in bed and wrapped her arms around the frail little woman who wore a smile from ear to ear. She took a deep breath and inhaled that familiar fusion scent of talcum powder and coconut oil reminding her of childhood days at grandmother’s house. The feeling was comfortable, taking her to a place that removed her from reality that lay within her arms.
The utter bliss to be wrapped up in the warmth of family, nothing could beat this feeling. She held tight to her granddaughter’s right hand and felt the flesh of youth. She slowly lifted it up and gazed at the hand all the while aware of the lullaby of soft snores emanating from her granddaughter next to her. She compared the hands, how similar they were yet while one was the colour of a blush rose and swollen with health and vitality, the other was translucent in colour and speckled with brown spots and carved with deep lines. How time could be so cruel. People always did say that aging was a part of life and time waits for no one, but how interesting would it be for time itself to feel that ache of age. Perhaps if a clock’s hand suddenly lost its systematic rhythm, or melted like Dali’s clocks, it would understand that slow seepage of life leaving you and leading you to a place where you either welcome or fear that black net that captures you like a school of fish. She slightly shook her head for talking nonsense and brushed away the pointless thoughts. Yet in her heart, the fear of closing her eyes into that sea of black and never having that darkness be pierced by light was her constant companion.
She glanced towards the desk, since sleep had evaded her with all her fears astir, and took notice of her room. It certainly had seen better days; it was a space for her to store precious souvenirs from her trips but now it had become nothing more than an old antique shop. The birdcages swayed against a breath of the summer air and she was reminded of how she had to barter with that merchant from Marrakech so she could buy a couple for her parakeets. She ached for those clicks and sounds of those birds, for some type of noise that would bring her back to younger days instead of the quiet cage her room had become. She moved her eyes over and noted the cloths and rugs and reminisced about looking up at the assembly of stars while lying on the sheets with her husband beside her. How beautiful time was then, life was nothing but an adventure in exploring the world and writing her stories in books. She loved breathing the air of a foreign place and mapping out her life with places rather than birthdays. But time, with its unyielding loyalty, did catch up to her, ravaging her sense of explorations and companions and leaving her a hollow skeleton with wishful thoughts and diminishing memories. Her days of living were now just years of existing and she was now nothing more than an old woman who jabbered on about lost worlds. She was viewed as if she had no past to call her own, but just titles of wife, mother, and grandmother. How easy it was to forget the person beneath the wrinkles, shaky hands, repetitive behaviour and distant eyes. How simple it could be to move into someone else’s space and erase their presence, which they tried so hard to preserve. She looked her around at the room and realized this was all a culmination of her cocooning herself with things she loved all the while trapping herself within a past that no one could touch. She suddenly felt weary as her mind did not have the energy it once used to think up an essay of thoughts and ideas and she felt tired. She felt sleep slinking towards her and for a moment thought she heard the clicks of her parakeets but closed her eyes into that familiar sea of black while her daughter downstairs called her name.