The bedroom looks more or less as it did when Sarah’s mother had returned from the hospital, like something out of a 70s Style magazine: khaki colored carpet—shag carpet, mind you—vanilla walls, a beige ceiling. A dresser stands beside the closet door. A bed towers in the center of the room, one of those velvet numbers. It looks old and worn, the bed, like it’s been sitting beneath a pile of scrap metal for years.
As a child, Sarah loved to peel the sheets and blankets off and roll around on it. Complete with a velvet headboard, the bed attracted her; she loved how it felt, adored it, even.
It repulsed her after her mother died. And, as a teenager, it embarrassed her when, on a rare occasion, a friend, rarer still, showed up to the house and peered into the room. The headboard alone belonged in a museum, it was so old; and its color, purple, caught the eye. It never failed to elicit a comment, usually about her father, which further embarrassed her.
Sarah shoves her fist into the mattress. It creaks. She recoils and blurts something like a scream but not quite a scream. More like a yelp. Touching the mattress had raised gooseflesh on her arms, which she now pulls to her chest and massages.
Her mother’s absence lingers, but it’s vague. It reminds Sarah of the feeling she experiences when she leaves her house and forgets something—but not certain if she has, in fact, forgot something. And this evokes pretty much the same sensation, her mother’s absence. Why does she linger? But then does she linger?
After a while, the sensation dims. It dims. The shadows of years gone by darken the signature of her existence.
And but Sarah’s father … His absence is fucking oppressive. Like at any moment, Sarah expects him to call from downstairs or to make an appearance or to ask why she’s in his room. Like it doesn’t even feel like he’s out of town or on vacation or something. It feels like he’s there, right there, alive and well and in the house, maybe in the living room, maybe, or in the basement. And … but … she doesn’t have access to him. Like he’s there but she can’t pinpoint his location; like she knows he’s home but she can’t figure out in which room he’s doing whatever it is he does.
She opens the closet door—inside, it smells like dust—and fumbles for the twine dangling from the light fixture. She flails her arm and pinches her fingers. Then, still flailing her arm, she slaps the twine, catches and pulls it. Photons ping pong around the closet.
Clothes hang from wall to wall. Men’s clothes. Some old, some new, some she’s never seen. She slides her fingers across the sleeve of an old jacket. Goosebumps. The clothes retain his smell, his signature. Tears threaten to assault her. She clears her throat and closes her eyes and pops her neck, slaying the tears before they usurp her.
It’s almost funny. Every suit, every shirt, every pair of paints—everything seems plucked out of the 1970s and 80s, like her father was maybe some secret sitcom star and had saved his wardrobe. As a teenager, of course, she didn’t find it funny, even though his style wasn’t as outdated.
Among blues and whites, and even a pink, among velvet and cardigan, a black suit sticks out. Does it look good? Seams are frayed and, at some points, gray dulls black, turning it more or less silver. So no: it doesn’t look good. But then so what? Does it matter what he looks like when he’s buried?
But even in death people tend to appear the way others expect them to appear.
—It’s such bullshit, she says.
More faded clothes. More frayed seams. Did the man own a decent suit? Continue reading