Some tiny creature, mad with wrath,

Is coming nearer on the path.

--Edward Gorey

Location: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, U.S. Outlying Islands

Writer, lawyer, cyclist, rock climber, wanderer of dark residential streets, friend.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

This House Is Home 2


Everywhere there are scars. With a dear, elderly family member, one you've watched age, you know all too well what the folds of skin hide, the scars and liver spots and signs of roads travelled roughly and wih an eye for passers-by.

And so it is with this house: the old wavy glass bubbled and fractured in its agonizing, inexorable flow to ground; the signs of rot, new and old, around the corners of things; the imprints of towel racks and toilet lids smoothed but not obscured by coat upon coat of paint; pits in the walls and floors; gouges in doorjambs. Around the rims of rooms the floor is dotted with the little footprints, hasty and frenetic, of old carpet tacks. The edges of windows, too high to touch, darkened with the pocks left by a century of makeshift window treatments.

This afternoon, mounting a tricky bathroom mirror while awaiting a furniture delivery, I caught a glimpse of the back of my hand as I placed a screw and moved the drill into position. Its back, pale and bluely mottled, was brilliant in the bathroom light, and on its back -- which perhaps I do not know so well -- were perhaps a dozen small brown spots, not quite liver spots or moles, certainly not freckles just . . . spots, perhaps visible only to me (at least now, when no one else is looking that closely).

My father's hands wear a proliferation of like anomalies, perhaps harbingers of the melanoma that favors my paternal family. My hands. His hands. How many times have I seen him in just this posture? A hundred work sites, as many jobs or more, and those brown-spotted hands creating beauty from nothing even as they aged before my eyes.

And mine?

In over twenty-four hours since I last wrote, my hands have installed one small thing, assembled something unthinkably large, a double-wide wardrobe so imperious that it would ruin almost any room -- but not this one. Three or so hours of two-man teamwork followed by another four hours of solo toil -- go to your room without supper! -- and there it stands, and there . . . and, yes, there.

It works. My hands work, as do my father's. And of course this house seems to work, too. Even if I find myself longing for bread crumbs to trail behind me when I move around. I'm like a prisoner acclimated to cell life, or a crate-trained dog: the ritual of three rooms arranged just so has a tenacity that won't be denied.


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