It was strange how often she sat by the windowsill, expressionless, as if she was delirious. Her hands played with the keys of the house she meant to give away. The window in question ran along the length of the sad excuse of a home she’d spent most of her teenage life in, offering a perfect view of the drab, graying mounds that went as ‘houses’ in the locality. Itty-bitty homes, neglected enough, that their colors seeped into the cobbled steps when the rains came, and since, lay bare. The house itself stood tall, as it was made, yet seemed to have shrunk in the many monsoons she left it out to dry. Whether the ceilings slipped their marks or the walls closed in, the hallways retained a sense of stifled spirit– as if all the things the house witnessed, it enclosed within itself invisibly, slowly filling the rooms with phantom memories.

She was, perhaps, aware of this wizardry, and reflected upon her predicament at length in those wander some afternoons by the window. She was known to be a little moody, since she was as young as the fickle first rain of the year, when she first stepped into this house for good. The hallways breathed anew with anticipation of life. She wasn’t even born yet, a mere specimen being brought to life. Her mother had also been a differing strain from the rest of the family- if family was ever the right word. In the pale hues of the washed-out crochet of the neighborhood, the mother-daughter stuck out like a deep, graying red.

A lizard slithers down the beam. Her mother said lizards were bad luck.

Everything in this house had been her mother’s. The needles she was never allowed to touch, the jewelry that lay out of bounds, the books placed too high on the shelf. She remembered how the afternoon hours went by, and she lay staring at the golden light filtering from the barred windows. It fell onto the forbidden volumes, making her curious.

The little gray houses had a park. With a fountain. She could see it from the window in her nursery. She longed to go there so often when her hands couldn’t reach the door knob… she didn’t want to any more, might not have stepped outside the house for a week.

When her hands did begin to reach the door knob, and then the latch, her hair falling down to her thighs– it was then that she left the house for boarding school. The quiet, shy, silly girl she once was… It was so hard to picture her now pale and ashy complexion breaking into a pinkish chuckle. She would play with the keys then. She still did her hair like that little girl, tucking the strands she left out mistakenly behind her ear. She didn’t write to her mother any more…

She came back to a house missing shingles, and a soul. It was distant. She still failed to gauge the gaps.

Her mother was buried at the cemetery around the corner. Her mother once told her how when she was with child, a lizard creeped up on her from behind the foliage, and gave her a scare that resulted in dilations, a lot of blood, and a lot of crying. She used to say nothing good came of lizards.

The one at the beam was a few inches from the girl’s arm now. She shooed it away.

As she moved by the hallway, she saw for the last time, the scribbles she made in the walls as a child, the tiles of the floor where she lay, motionless, as if in a delirium. They had lived alone their whole lives. She couldn’t live with the ghosts of the past if she wanted to continue the tradition.

She stepped out onto the cobbled steps where she set paper ships on their journeys… And left the house to sing its own song of grief, she had been in solemn harmony too long.

– Yashi Sharma, Amity International School Noida



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