By Małgorzata Czyńska
The boundaries between memories and imagination were obliterated ages ago. Actually, how would it be possible for him to remember the suite of rooms? Maybe it was he himself who had created the history of the house by depicting it in every single subsequent painting. Maybe it had become so coherent, logical and plausible that he believed it himself because he had always wanted to do so.
No one had commissioned the design of the building. No one was paying the rent and keeping the stoves alight. And yet, while walking from room to room and opening doors, he could feel the presence of the household members, even if it was beyond him to remember their faces.
What he did remember very well, however, was bathroom steam muffling the crying of a child being wrapped in white sheets by hands that went red from all the heat. Yes, there must have been a child. ‘A household without a child is like a face with no eyes,’ he was trying to convince himself.
That enormous bath tub was made for intimate situations. Many a time, through the gushing water, he could make out the laughter of a man and a woman. He would never see them as he wouldn’t dare to crack open the door. It was only the steam vapour and scent of soap coming through the crack under the door. Then the steam would settle on the stone floor and make the movements of an old man excessively cautious. He was worried about the old man and about himself. Only after having finally sat on his metal bed in the bedroom would he sigh with relief, content that he had made it again and that the only thing left was bedtime, if he managed to fall asleep, of course.
The passage of time has taken over every nook and cranny of the house.
Probably no one ever ran there, no one slammed doors and the window panes always reflected the same inky night sky. Or maybe it was just his memory of the house. ‘There was a child there, after all,’ he was thinking and trying to introduce a patter of little feet to break the suddenly omnipresent silence, to hear the footsteps of the lovers and the shuffling of the old man’s feet.
‘It’s my fault,’ he thought. Perhaps in different memories the music room was more than just a picture of an abandoned cello that he never had the courage to put back into its case. He would think he had no right to do so since it would probably offend the missing musician.
The library intimidated him. ‘Those towering bookshelves,’ he thought. He knew all the books although he never read them. He would only slide his hand over their spines while walking around the bookcases. He was getting more convinced it was warmth that he could feel then.
Sometimes he would stand by the wall opposite the window and observe the neighbouring houses from a distance. He wondered what their bathrooms, living rooms and libraries looked like, what kind of life was being led somewhere else and whether there was any life there, since one couldn’t be sure of anything on that inky night – only the floor under one’s feet and the wall behind one’s back. Then he would quietly close all the doors.
He knew he would come back.