Review Summary: when we go, we go alone
7:14 PM. The sun begins to set over a home not thirty miles from the east coast. In the middle of nowhere important at all, surrounded by some few forests and the sea breeze, is where it lays. Alone, yet unmoving. I have not been back here in years. The number is no longer important for there is nothing waiting for me here. No one to see to its upkeep. The back porch is overgrown, rife with vines and tall grass. The paint has long been chipped away by the ever present flow of Father Time. Orange glows onto the splintered wood. The air is as salty as I remember it. Gaia may have forgotten this place, but my heart—my soul—can never forget the smell, let alone the sight. This was home, back when there was nothing but home. Nothing but the fireflies and crickets. Now, nothing but the haze of nostalgia lingers here.
There are no locks on the door. Dust begins to cloud upward, swirling around my head. Each step complemented by a creak in the wooden planks that lay the foundation. Age has done this place no favors. The walls that once held the sound of my youth now barely hold the building upright. My attention moves to many areas at once. The kitchen where I once sat on the counter to eat homemade waffles is now as empty as the sky above it. All that remains are grease stains and coffee spots that not even Mother Nature can scrub clean. The living room is spacious and wistfully silent. I may be the first person to stand here in years and most likely will be the last. Bookshelves line the hallway down to where I once slept. We were always told to read as much as we could. That our imaginations are biggest weapon in life, mastering it means overcoming any obstacle. Those words now elicit a small chuckle from me. True as they may have been back then, we need a lot more than the pictures in our heads today.
My body fills in the blanks where my memory falters. Three bedrooms inhabit this hall, but only one triggers my eyelids to grow heavy and my legs weak. I wonder how much time was spent here. The hours wasted sleeping through the days. Studying and learning the ways of the world from my bedside. Listening to my father’s old record collection of artists whose names are long erased from the minds of the public today. How many hours, I wonder" Hundreds, maybe thousands" That’s a long streak to break. But all things must end sooner or later. I curse myself as I begin to leave, nearly forgetting the reason I came. Hidden under the mattress, unknown to anyone else, holds a rather unspectacular VHS tape. Only one distinguishing feature shows its true importance. A small but good-sized strip of brown tape with the name “Sister Grotto
” written on it with black marker.
The VHS player, surprisingly and poignantly enough, is the only thing in the house that still works. A machine whose main purpose to view and remember past events. Carefully, I insert the tape and press play. Harsh white noise fills the box shaped television, but the picture starts to come through slowly and surely. There’s a girl standing in the middle of the living room of the past, holding a cello she has owned most of her life. Her focus is beyond the camera.
“Is it rolling" Like, is it steady and sounding good" I’m not doing this over and over again you know.”
“Yeah, everything's fine alright" Just let me worry about all this extra stuff and just focus on playing.”
“Fine, fine hahaha. Woooooould you do the honors of counting me in"”
“Hehe, alright. 1...2...3...4. 1...2...3…”
It’s been too long. Too long since I’ve seen her smile. Since I’ve heard her voice. Since I’ve heard my voice in such a cheerful tone. Since I’ve seen her play. The cello ebbs and flows with each stroke of her arm. She spends a little less than an hour recording the performance I could never forget. Synth pianos count her in from the tape recorder left of the screen. The melody is simple but slowly becomes wistful and haunting. Her voice comes through like an angel aloft on the wispy clouds we used to lay and watch. We grew up here together. Lived a large part of lives around these paths and these woods. She begins to play the cello, overpowering all else. It demands your attention. You can’t think while listening to it. Just allow it to take your mind beyond your body. I close my eyes. I could lay here for hours. Days, if need be. I can’t stay here long though. It feels as though I’m stepping on ancient burial grounds, the kind that holds the ancestors of all who walk today. I take the VHS out of the player and make my way back out.
8:32 PM. The road is long and dark. All to keep me company is the hum of the engine and rotating of my tires. I don’t know how it started, how I began thinking about her. We went our separate paths a long time ago. She went across the sea as I went west. I haven’t seen her since. I barely remembered what she looked like, for we both kept nothing from our time together. There is nothing to keep from that period of my life. At least, there wasn’t then. Now" Now I have the memory that binds us together. One that could not be deleted no matter how hard the passage of time hit us.
I wonder where she is now. She could be anywhere in the world at this point. We are but specks of dust on the surface of an ocean. Wherever she is, I hope my sister is happy there. And I hope she still plays her cello the way she used to.