Friday, May 20, 2016

The Summer Porch

Stashed.  That was the word.  Hidden under a million objects, memories, pictures, emotions and scents.  Easily dismissed when met with the realities of the day.  Filed away in the safest, most treasured part of the mind.

Going there was an indulgence, certainly.  It wasn't productive, it didn't help her get any work done or catch up on the mountain of papers sitting on her desk.  But sometimes, just for a moment, when the sound of typing threatened to drive her mad or the endless ring of the phone up front started to drown out her own thoughts she would stop and allow herself to drift.

It began with the scent of saltwater.  Or seaweed.  Or sand.  Whatever that smell was.  She knew it better than anything else and it enveloped her completely, invading her nostrils as much as her memories even as she sat in that sterile office closed off from the world.  It was a scent written on her soul, inextricably linked to a feeling of peace that nothing else could deliver.  She followed it now, down the path of her own memory.

Next came the sounds of the street- lawnmowers, dogs barking, kids yelling at each other as they shot waterguns or chased the leader down the sidewalk.  She heard her father's old dodge idling away in the driveway as he worked on the engine, telling her brother to "turn it off" for another adjustment.  She heard her cat Missy mewing as he sprawled on the wooden railing of the porch.

She reached out a hand and felt the old wood- painted and re-painted so many times the wood underneath could never be recovered, and yet worn smooth by hands like hers grasping and sliding and sometimes holding on.  Her grandmother's firm grasp as she slowly mounted the steps one at a time, smiling as she did as if the pain in her hip wasn't excruciating.  Her brother's tapping fingers as he skipped up the way he always did.  Her mother's smooth, fluid ascent earning a groan from each step she walked.  The physical touches of her family etched onto the smooth surface.

And finally, blessedly, she opened her eyes and observed.  The window always caught her eye first, the pane reflecting the nearly blinding light of the late sun as it drooped languidly in the sky and the orange glow that illuminated and bounced and spread like ivy.  It always reminded her of a creamsicle, sometimes so much her mouth would water and she would strain for the sound of the ice cream truck.

She allowed her gaze to drift, her eyes touching upon each object and surface the same as her hand had caressed the banister.  The swing- her mother's favorite part of the house, where she would curl up with a book and Missy and an icy glass of lemonade or tea that would collect condensation and soak the pages of whatever novel she pretended to read as she looked out at the street.  Sometimes her father would join her with a beer in hand and she'd protest his dirty pants on her white wicker bench.  He would put an arm around her, which she'd initially scream at him for before relenting and sinking into the cuddle.

The sand-dollar wind chimes they'd made together one summer, after carefully and meticulously combing the beach day after day looking for the perfect ones.  For every one successfully connected by fishing wire there were at least a dozen broken, or stepped on, or found lacking upon the return home to consider the day's findings.  She'd always loved it, perhaps because of the size of the endeavor and the devotion they'd given it.

The floor, oh the floor.  Worn smooth in the main pathway by hundreds of feet scraping across the surface.  Sandy shoes and dragged beach bags.  Her father's heavy work boots.  Her wet flip-flops.  Her grandmother's cane.  The wood had originally been a deep, chestnut brown but in the center of the porch where everyone walked it was worn back, obsidian and perfectly reflective of that brilliant orange light.  As if the entryway itself were a path of lit fire.  She would stare at that spot on the porch as she sat on the railing, losing longer moments than she ever intended.

A million and one memories.  An endless list of stories and jokes and repeated dialogues.  The tapestry of her family before her grandmother died and her parents broke up and they had to sell the house in Avalon.  Before childhood stopped being magical.  She indulged in them, allowing herself to feel.

A pile of manilla folders landed with an audible thud on the already tall pile of paperwork on her desk and she startled, jolting violently and bouncing in her office chair.  Her boss didn't even look back at her as he continued his march to his office and she shot daggers at the now crumbling tower on her desk.  She sighed, resigned herself to get back to work and leave the summer porch again to regain her seat in the firm, unforgiving confines of reality, and reached for the top of the stack.

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