A story can never end with a simple image. I take that back. Yes, it can. The writer gives her story the potency to be what it will. A weak writer may not endow it with enough power to live on its own without a respirator or feeding tube. That’s the trouble with humans playing God. We’re not shams exactly; we’re made in the image of, and all that. But where does that leave us? We aren’t mini-gods. I don’t need a biological or theological or theoretical education to know this truth in the core of my being. I’m not a god–so why do I play one as the author of my mini worlds? Yes, I know, they appear epic after the word count climbs over 90,000, but they’re tiny enough to slip into my braincells as places and people and adventures already visited, worlds already put to rest.
In my dreams, I see buildings–tall thin ones that scrape the sky, narrow oblongs that rest directionally to the horizon, and two-storied places with pitched roofs that cry for families. My rooms are inevitably messy. I’m a mess internally, so this isn’t surprising. Sometimes these buildings are hybrids, places whose windows I climb from, only to reenter again into dark basements. When I add, combine, and quantify, the dwelling I love the best is the one with the pitched roof like a spring sky. Blue roof–white shutters–yellow siding. This is the atmosphere of spring. And spring is meant to bring new life, as the agricultural world affirms–one could call it the scientific world, even if it does dwell down on the farm–and the religious world confirms spring’s delivery, as well, in its rites of cyclical death and rebirth. As a Christian, I recognize the fulfilment of my rebirth through Jesus’ death and resurrection. What that says about my interior spaces and their lack of order may or may not be unrelated because I’m a believer in Jesus, not spring cleaning.
I am a house. My rooms are messy. I have a blue roof, a slate roof, a red roof. My outside is composed of solid timbers, and timbers that are as frail as old, flaked paint. Sometimes, I live on an air-gasping, head-woozy floor in a tiny apartment filled with borrowed objects. Elevators and escalators send me up and bring me back down. At my workplace, I descend into the basement to drop my child in a womb-safe daycare, and then travel up and up to my small office, inside a larger office, inside a complex of offices in a building that was designed for medical offices. Up here, on this floor with a swooning view, I feel safe knowing my child is tucked away in the basement. On with the paperwork–or whatever it is I’m hired here to do.
The papers tucked away, I remember the house with the slate roof. That’s the one where my colleague and I–this time we’re medical examiners–climbed from a first-floor window, from that hinged, old-fashioned kind, onto the rain-soaked grass. We were frightened to be there; I can’t recall why. Memory creates an illusory image when attached to emotion. Or, I should say, memories are more vividly remembered when attached to strong emotions, but the cause and effect may be lost in the recall, such that the emotion and incident combine in the flash of a moment–a photograph left out of its packet. There’s no context, in other words, until another flash occurs, revealing another image connected to fear. Something is chasing us, and we’re ducking down in the shadows, where we can smell the mud of the grass and the dank, catty smell of the basement, and we lower ourselves through an unlatched screen back into the very same house we have just escaped.
It’s dark down here. Empty boxes sit stacked by our entrance route (and possibly our only escape route). My colleague insists we’ll be safe here, and he pulls me into a mesh box, and pushes me to a crouched position in the corner of the box. We hear a click, and it’s too late. The fear–the concept of shadow–is manifest. It has locked us in a cage of our own choice, our own hiding place. We peer out. How disconcerting. A single bulb swings above us, haloing a woman and a man in lab coats, holding clipboards. They’re examining us. We’re the specimens.
I should leave you with the spring house, rather than this cage deep inside the bowels of an old one. I should leave you with its hope, but I don’t yet know how. The last time I entered the house with the blue roof and yellow exterior and stark white shutters, it was littered with the detritus of guests–dirty plates and bulbous glasses settled with sweet wine. For now, it’s a house only the swallows will find, and they’ll build their mud houses up under the eaves. That’s a lovely image, but it’s not where I’m at.
I’m in a basement. Trust me when I insist that this is not only the proper way to end this–whatever this godlike creation of fictional worlds is–but it’s also the way to begin. Beginning on an upper floor is absurd, to say the least. No one can begin there. So I’ll start at the deepest place my dwelling dips. I’ll start at the beginning and end at whatever floor I manage to climb to before the story’s over.
I’m in a cage in a basement. That’s my simple image, and its potency relies solely on the hope of spring and its ability to unclasp locked doors.