To Grandmother's House We Go
The apartment sat empty, the dust particles floating in the air like sparkling memories of life that had been long gone, but still linger, imprinted on the walls and echoing in the heartbeat of what used to be her home. The three cousins were meeting there, for a night on the town. They’d spent the day getting themselves dolled up and ready to let off some steam and dance the night away. They intended to meet at the old apartment and once together they would leave to head off into the night. Yet a deep fog began to surround them as they arrived. The empty streets were of an eerie comfort as they approached the emptiness beyond the basement door.
Bella arrived, in her 60's style dress, buttoned up high, short flared skirt. Her hair was styled up in beehive fashion. Her curls were tight and almost glued to her face as the tendrils that cascaded down her back sat perfectly still. Her wide eyes were made up beautifully, the winged eyeliner creating a striking presentation. She looked as though she stepped out of a disco music video. Her heels clicked methodically on the floor as she watched, amazed as her childhood rushed back to her. She entered the empty kitchen, the fridge was warm and held nothing inside and no longer was there food cooking on the stove. The window still carried the dust filled curtains and they swayed back and forth even though no wind entered in. It was at eye level and she could see into the vast street as she peered her colorful eyes through the panes of glass.
Bella couldn’t remember why she was there or where she was supposed to be. She only stood in the same spot staring out into an empty world. The grey skies fell onto the street, creating a fog that lifted upward toward the heavens. There was no end and no beginning to the darkness. She closed her eyes and remembered when she was a child and her grandmother was alive and vibrant; she had taught her so much. With Bella's eyes closed, suddenly her memory came alive, and there she was, standing before her, singing her song of forever, giving her the only comfort she would ever know. Grandmother would caress her hands over hers and Bella remembered those hands always, the smoothness, the manicured nails, the wrinkles that came with age and time, that was all part of their beauty. Her voice was still as present as it ever was and suddenly the kitchen was alive and breathing as was her grandmother. In a glimpse through her memory she was once again with her and it was the only place she wanted to be, where she was not ever judged, in the arms of the only one that ever brought her any peace. She wanted to remain forever embraced within this memory; the real world a distant memory all its own.
Through the fog entered Cinder, her tentative steps barely a presence on the wooden floor. The outside grey presence encircled the entrance, clearing the path for her to arrive. Her fiery essence was palpable as the heat escaped from her energy. She was fire and power. Her beauty was natural and never deliberate. She appeared as from a time capsule, flowers in her hair, petals falling to the floor with every step. Her red lips pursed in confusion as she looked around realizing nothing was as it once was. The silence was louder than all thoughts in her mind. Through the dust she could see in her mind where everything used to be, the dining table where she sat at many dinners, cut countless cakes and watched many a bingo game.
As she made her way into the living room, she was entranced as the dust particles that danced in the air, singing within themselves the songs of her youth, carrying the memories she'd long ago forgotten. The melodies brought joy and a sense of belonging to her every memory of her time there. Cinder ran her fingers across the empty spaces on the wall where the pictures once hung, the phantom squares of portraits that now look into nothing, the actual ones sitting untouched in a basement not too far away. The life that once occupied every square inch was now a room for memories and ghosts that carry every emotion that once touched each corner.
Cinder walked a circle in the empty room, careful to not disturb the furniture that was no longer there but lived as pleasant ghosts in her mind. As her eyes closed she could hear the music, coming from the radio that used to be nearby, the tones of Spanish music that used to coat her in love, security and harmony within her soul. She felt her hips sway to the beats and her feet followed slowly as her heart remembered where the music began and as she opened her eyes the living room was alive, and so was her grandmother. There she sat in her old recliner, rocking to the music in that way of hers, clapping her hands, cheering her on. The dining table was set for dinner that the scent in the air indicated was almost ready and the couch was full of family and laughter and song traveled through the air replacing the dust memories of before. Cinder remembered that her troubles always ended here; this was where love was found, where family was kept as one, where tranquility was born, where her troubles came to die, if only for a while. She knew not where she was supposed to be that night but no longer cared, for she had found her place once again, and it was right there with life and music and love.
I am Alpana. I stand watching them, find themselves and find her in their mind's eye. I am as made up and dressed as they, with my beauty showcased in the colors I wear. I am ready for movement and music and laughter and fun and yet there I stood, our peculiar meeting place and now I ask myself why.
As I watched this all happen around me, Cinder finding music and life in the living room and Bella finding memories and embraces in the kitchen, I questioned what I would find, what I would search for. The world was alive with them while I still stood on the outside searching for the purpose of my presence. I watched the air fill with fog, it surrounded me, reminding me I was far from life and I was still alone.
Why were we here? I never wanted to come here. I never wanted to see this place without her in it. I chose instead to remember it as it always was, the way Bella and Cinder see it now, in their memories behind closed eyes. I tried to close my own, to picture this place as it used to be but I could not find it. Instead I was called to the hallway, behind the closet door that once housed all of her suits, that in the end she never wore. Slowly opening the creaky door I see the three small walls of the empty closet and yet I peer my face in, hesitating at what I may find. But it is nothing I am searching for with my eyes. She had a scent about her that anyone who knew her would recognize. It was a scent I am unable to describe but one that belongs to her and her alone.
It is synonymous with love and time and childhood and peace. It rhymes with the feel of her hands and the warmth of her presence. She imprinted in everything that was still here, the walls and the floor the paint and the wallpaper. I thought I could inhale her scent if I tried. Yet I did, and found nothing. Inside the closet I closed my eyes again, slowly attempting to take in the only connection I knew that could bring me back as it was bringing them back and yet I smell only old paint and a closet that has been untouched.
I move away from the music behind me and find the room, the bed she rarely slept in was now gone, and the dresser that had been hers since before I had any memories of another was somewhere unknown and in its place stood only the memory of it. Her life and her love and family and children were lived here and found here. This was the place where the scarves hung, the perfume and powders sat atop the dresser, where we would all find the only glimpse into her as a woman. She was delicate yet strong, beautiful and mystifying, phenomenal and ethereal. She was everything and anything at all times. Her being is frozen and attached to us all but in that moment I only want to smell her once more, that scent that mixes like her powder and perfume, like old suits and comfortable chairs, like rice and beans and coffee, like cold cream mixed with boric acid, like herbs soaked in florida water, like lavender hand lotion and so much more.
She is a bubble of memories and I look around and see her nowhere but she is everywhere. There is no place else to go but for now I sit on the cold floor and listen to the far off music that plays in Cinder’s mind and feel the gentle touch as Bella does. I imagine the scent that I searched for, and slowly it comes to me, like a memory with feelings and a mixture of all the good moments of the lives of so many. There she is, in body and spirit, in touch and scent and music.
She is not gone. She is here with me, with you, with this place and with us all. She will never be forgotten, she is more than where she lived, she is alive everywhere.