Spaces have personality; spaces can be unkind.
January 3rd, 1983
I finally understood. I was held just so; I struggled to breathe in the grip of the walls. Soft hands turned to fists: something beat down on me, corralled and gave it to me all in a single blow. The house’s various voices crept closer; before I could even feel them there I was being deafened by some choir of chants. Everything evanesced, the crickets and the clock, the mumble of the tele, the dripping of the water in the sink, everything, except for this one grotesque understanding. They sang it to me over and over, layered in dissonance and harmony; nothing intelligible, yet, all consuming.
I wasn’t built for this. Weakness overcame me and I was pulled in. I never wanted to be touched again, and there I was, throwing myself at the floor; I felt betrayed by gravity, but more so, by my own body. I’ve found the most disgusting line of symmetry. I’m always giving what is asked, pulled in just as much as I weigh. Here I am; I cannot weigh nothing. So pierce me with splinters and touch me all over with your wooden skin that had to be killed to be created. Fuck you, and yet, there I was.
Weighed down or pulled in, what difference does it make? It asked me to fall and I did because there was nothing else I could have done. I couldn’t get up.
Silence. The guttural choir choked and for a moment, I was truly alone.
This is one of those moments where I wished I could float away, and I kind of did.
Body on the rug, eyes unset, I was taken elsewhere.
June 22nd, 1973
The van careened into the drive out front, the once distant structure appearing monstrously large. Ivy coated the exterior, dense at the bottom perimeter, trickling up as if fighting gravity to just barely kiss the roof. Sun ricocheted from the glass, the bell, the cross.
“Why are we at church?” Yvette asked, her little hand softly jabbing into her mother’s shoulder, voice tinged with disappointment.
“Don’t let the house fool you,” her mother said, “It might look like a church, but inside, it has rooms with beds and a kitchen,” she turned to Yvette to poke her back.
“No mass?” Yvette said through giggles.
“I promise, no mass. Never in the house, at least,” her mother replied, still smiling.
The church-house was described by previous inhabitants as breathtaking, alluring, and tempting. Being that these were previous inhabitants, it can safely be said that they’d all given in; they had worded it in a strange manner, comparable to the way some men describe beautiful women, as if the estate begged to be lived on as inch of skin called to be touched. The white paint, despite being many tens of years old, was still pristine. The stained glass was beautifully intricate, nearly lurid, as it was surrounded by a forest of ashy birch trees. In fact, the surroundings seemed nearly colorless. The church had a garish intensity to it, drawing one’s eye from all else to its arched door. One would find that when the tarnished knob was grabbed and twisted, they’d be rewarded by a wooden interior, aglow with warmth; this would soon ignite the Crane family through a comfort they didn’t know they’d lost in the cold, crisp white of their previous house.
Caesar, after opening the car doors to let the kids out, turned to his wife.
“Do not ask again,” she said, sharpened by intent and softened with disappointment. When he asked her questions she didn’t like, her inhales became slow stabs: sharp in and softly out, paining him more each time she sighed.
“No, I think I will,” he said as his eyes found her’s, locking. She broke away and pulled her key from the van’s ignition. “Are you ready,” he paused, “Or are you sure you can do this? As far as I know you could be like, crumbling inside right now, and it’s never too late to find a way out of –”
“Can you stop please? Be a husband. And a dad.” In response, he tilted his head, mouth opened slightly in a way that said you’re joking. She continued, “Don’t give me that. It’s not the church I grew up with. Apparently the inside is unrecognizable, anyways. Really like a house,” she said, the zipper of her coat speaking over her momentarily. The engine had died, she stopped her rustling, and for a moment the van went silent. “And plus, we know there’s nothing else we can do. This is what we have. We have to work with what we have. I’m okay,” she said, looking back at him. She then overstepped the threshold that stood between van door and the grayness outside.
“Lord, protect my Bella,” he muttered to himself. He rubbed his weary eyes as her tracks in the snow grew further away from him.
The creation of this piece began in June of 2021. The depths of the pandemic revealed to me that physical spaces can have a much greater impact on a person and their experiences than I’d previously believed – most particularly, someone’s own home. I sat down to write and my struggle to feel accepted by the spaces I was quarantined in came out through the Crane family’s move. I put the piece aside until earlier this year, and with revisiting it, I felt the continued relevance of this idea in my life.
Maya Cruz is a New York City born and raised daughter, sister, and student. She has a burning passion for the arts and the overlap they have with the natural world. Writing especially has helped her evolve her perspective, which she hopes to continue sharing.