Dust motes dance in the afternoon sun on the breath of wind stirred by footsteps unheard for many years. The room echoes with the harsh sound of his black leather dress shoes without anything to muffle the sound. The loud groans from below seem to bother him, and he stands still in the middle of the room, looking around at the maroon papered walls and the big brick fireplace to the right. The walls whisper, “Go away. We don’t want anyone else,” but he can’t hear them over his heavy breathing.
Once there was a small man here, and his footsteps were always cushioned by slippers his wife gave him on that last Christmas. He would sit with her by the lace framed window and play chess while talking about the news and the weather, but there was no talking once she left. He drifted around the house in a dark blue velvet smoking jacket that he never smoked in, and read books in the large blood red chair that was too big for him, next to the fireplace that was never lit.
When he stopped listening to people, he started listening to the walls, and they were his friends. They would tell him stories of the people that came before, the pets and the children, the love and the loss, and he would listen, writing it all down on scrolls he had made himself because he hated loose paper. He would sit at his mahogany desk, tasting the ink on the quill he never gave up for all the pens sent by grandchildren on holidays he never celebrated. Generations of stories lined the walls beside the fireplace on the large bookshelves that held trinkets from trips around the world, but they were thrown away by people who said they had no value.
The furniture, worn with use, was taken away by big men who cared little for the memories each piece contained. The large deep green sofa, once the playground for three small children, was taken to the curb to die out in the rain. The windows shook and the floor screamed, protesting the rape, but no one heard over the bangs and bumps, the scrapes and scratches that they inflicted as they ripped out fragments of a life they never knew. Words like “garbage” and “junk” followed them wherever they went, and soon there was nothing left but me and the house.
The boy looked over as I spread my branches to touch the sides of the frame. No one noticed me along the wall after that first woman, with the silvery hair and the slight limp, had placed me here. Wallpaper and paint covered the walls in the rooms around me, but no one ever noticed that my hallway has never changed. The yellow striped wallpaper had long ago turned to tan, and if he were to look behind my frame I’m sure he would see some of the old pattern still there.
His breath rustles my leaves and the spider web on the upper right corner of the aged wooden frame. Slowly, he comes close and reaches out to run his finger across the dull glass and see the soft green of my hanging branches, my delicate leaves lightly brushing the ground. He frowns, turns, and walks away, leaving me behind again.
As his hand clutches the doorknob he looks back and says, “Funny. I wonder when Dad got that picture.”