The Old House
When you look at my exterior, you see a white painted, unremarkable house. They implanted a restaurant unto my feet and three floors with two flats each spring from my spine. Nothing special. But I am more than that. I lived through two world wars; I saw my neighbours bombed into pieces. I was there as governments rose and fell. But now I am old and tottery. I start to forget things. Sometimes I forget even the present around me. Well, I am old, more than hundred years. You have to excuse me. I could tell you so many stories, about what happened inside, outside and around me. But right now I just want to sleep. Let me sleep, just for a few minutes. I need to rest my bones. For God’s sake! I can’t. Because they tramp on my head, they clomp around with their heavy shoes. These new residents! They don’t respect me any more. Last week they broke my spine. They tried to fix it with a stick and tape. That’s how they treat me. Can you imagine? But that’s not the worst. My bottom is covered over and over with parasites; my ears are hurting because of their humming bass echoing through my body. My feet and my legs are stuck in dust and dirt. The big toe of my left foot smells always of spicy food and my ankles are filled with food vapour. They try to rescue me only inside my head. They are cleaning, renovating and decorating. They try to remind me of the old days, when I was young and beautiful. When the old gramophone played in my stomach and made me dance. But those days are long ago. They died like the old tenant who lived in my head next to my left ear. I liked her. She was one of the good ones. We understood each other. But I knew that it would come to an end soon when she began to search for yesterday in her pocket – like searching for a packet of cigarettes. She became confused and tottery like me now. She forgot the most ordinary of things. I felt pity for her in those moments. For example she once wanted to start her day with a well-brewed coffee in the morning. But she confused the coffee pot with the filter basket of the coffee machine, so that she got coagulated coffee powder mixed in hot water instead. It was like coffee suffering from a thrombosis. Nevertheless she sipped her strange coffee without flinching.
When it became worse, a lot of strangers came to visit her. They looked after her and tried to fix her disorientation. Once I heard them talk about the situation and they said it would be better if she would move out because it’s too dangerous for her alone inside me. I wanted to scream and tell them, I would always protect her and I would keep an eye on her, but they didn’t hear me. To my luck, the old one thought the same. They tried to convince her, but she got angry and started to wave around with her walking stick. She lost her words, so that she spitted in their direction until they escaped stumbling down my backbones. With a fist up in the air, she stood confused in front of her door, not knowing why she was so angry before. She limped slowly into me, her flat, supported by her walking stick. She sighed and had that specific look in her eyes that showed her forlornness. But then her look turned into a secret smile, as if she knew something no one else knows. She went to my left ear, opened it and swung her leg over it, as if she were young again, and sat there waiting for someone she lost years ago.
We had good days before all these confusing things happened. The old one wasn’t old. She was young and beautiful as I was. She went out from Monday to Friday and came back every day around 5 pm. She went somewhere, probably to work; I couldn’t follow her, of course. But I always imagined an elegant office, where she worked as a secretary. When she came home, she would open my left nostril and I soaked in the fresh inrushing air blended with a splash of her flowery perfume. I can still smell it. I remember trying to talk to her:
– Hilde? Are you there? Where have you been the whole time? Hilde, It’s good to have you here. I need someone who treats me well and listens to me. –
Instead of answering me Hilde opens my left ear as well and swings her right leg up, leaping onto my outer ear, where she leans on my skin with her back. She begins to sing while she is lightning a cigarette. She takes a strong pull on it. She always does that, when she comes home. She always takes a break before she starts cooking or cleaning or preparing herself for a night somewhere outside in the city. But the last months it happened quite often that a young handsome man, showed up and ate dinner with her and also sometimes stayed over night. I can see in her eyes that she’s dreaming of him right now. It’s just a few days ago that he left. He’s away again, on a business trip. She looks at the golden ring on her left ring finger. Last Thursday, he asked her if she wants to be his wife. And she said yes. They agreed that they would plan the wedding as soon as he is back from his business trip. He works as an agent for a coffee company. That’s why he has to travel sometimes to South America to check the quality of coffee beans. These trips require mostly three weeks. The ring on her finger tells her that it’s true, that she doesn’t dream it. In three or four weeks she will get married to the smart-looking man whose picture stands on her bedside table.
– As soon as I am back, we will get married. That’s what he said, she whispers to herself. Suddenly she gets the feeling that she shouldn’t smoke and stumps out the cigarette hectically. And then she jumps down from my outer ear and starts cooking dinner for two persons. Even if he isn’t there, she always cooks at least for two because her neighbour is an old man with bad eyesight, which makes cooking a significant challenge for him. After she finishes eating, she knocks on her neighbour’s door and brings him the second half of what she has cooked. Also tonight she knocks on his door with a plate filled with plenty of food in her hands. He opens and says with a smile:
– Thank you, young lady. What shall I do without you? I hope you stay here until God calls me.
– Don’t say that. You would do fine also without me, of course! she answers and smiles back at him.
He gestures that she should step in, what she does, he follows her and they sit in his kitchen. While he eats, she tells him about her day. And after he finishes off, she goes with the empty plate back into her own flat, like they always do.
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