His Room in Her House

by Nathan Fako

            The door shut and he was left alone with the silence. Outside the snow fell in soft sheets, collecting in downy piles, covering the frozen earth beneath. The morning sun peeked through the storm clouds somewhere far off, and white light shone in through the single window. It moved around the drapes that had been pushed aside and shone calmly along the hardwood floors. Miniscule shadows, intimations of the falling flakes outside, tumbled across the reaches of the light.
Andy sat down on the gray covers of his mattress and stared at his feet. He wore one sock, the other foot left bare and white and glaring. Andy wiggled his toes, noticing how they felt suspended upwards, muscles taut, and compared that to the cold touch of the stained hardwood when he relaxed. He pressed his fingers against the fabric of the sheet and every thread felt palpable. Sliding one hand he felt static build.
            The room yawned before his searching fingers and feet. It had become his home for the past two months but only recently had it begun to feel like one. The door across from him was old wood, heavy and dark. It seemed too much for the rest of the room, commanding a personality of its own. It had squeaked violently the first two weeks that Andy had been on the job, but he'd since oiled the hinges and now it was quiet as the falling snow. The paper covering the walls of the room must have been birthed at the edges of the big door.
            The paper itself, a mute green similar in color to an early spring bud, was old-looking and a bit dirty in some spots. The wrinkles and creases he'd once observed with distaste now made him feel at home. They welcomed him in; they reminded him that it was beneath them where he was safe enough to close his eyes each night. Watching the crows feet that spread from the outer corners of his mother's eyes, he was a child again, missing the ever-present wan at the edge of her tight lips.
            A dresser, old like the door but painted oblivion white, was placed a few feet left of the entryway. The second drawer of four was open still, some folded tee shirts stacked in. Andy noticed now the gooseflesh on his chest. He stood from the bed and pulled on a shirt before shutting the drawer. It creaked a little as well, though its voice was not near as loud as the door's had been. His hands lingered on the wood for a moment, his heartbeat finally resuming a natural tempo. The dresser was like an anchor. He leaned on it, putting forehead against the wood.
             This is reality.
            Andrew relinquished the dresser and turned to the window. It was low, a little above waist height, but tall. Placing his palms against the freezing glass, he sunk down cross-legged onto the floor and stared out, his shadow interrupting the ballet of silhouettes that had been carrying on behind him without a sound.
            Outside the world was the same as it had been for the past few days. Snow fell from the sky and covered everything. Some of the drifts were high enough now that the frozen drops seemed to be multiplying on the ground without the help of their sky-diving comrades. Every now and again the fine powder would lump up and accrue just enough weight to send a hefty amount off the edge of the rooftops. It would fan out immediately like a magician's smoke bomb while it all fell. He watched some fall from the top of the garage, wondering if the old roof would hold all of the snow. The weight of the clouds seemed to push down and despite the lightness of a snowflake Andy looked out and thought that everything might be suffocating.
            The over-saturation of powder was not exclusive to the rooftops. The bare branches of the monumental white ash trees, which flanked the main path up to the estate, were bowed and drooping with the weight of the weather. During odd moments snow would slip from the edge of an arm and the branch might swing upward, sending even more clouds of white away from its bark.
            The fountain in the courtyard was grand enough that it had yet to be taken under by the three-foot-deep and ever-rising swath. Stone un-bothered by the cold, the child atop the fountain held her pose mid-dance. One hand, her left, stretched out and up while bending at the wrist, her open palm forming a perfect plane for snow to rest. It collected there on the marble in a perfect conical shape, reminding Andy of sugar. The ruffles in her sweet dress held the powder as well, making it appear as though the dark rock garment was trimmed with white.
            Something tapped the glass. A honey bee, the fuzzy gold of it's abdomen glaring against the snow-laden gray brick, fell dazed on the outer sill of the window. It's black legs flailed for a moment before it righted itself and crawled to a small section of brick where the snow hadn't reached. It's wings moved up and down as it stood.
            Andy pulled the bottom of the window up and stared at the little bug. He didn't even know bees lived through the winter. How could they? Wouldn't the cold kill them all? He recalled seeing a beehive high up in one of the ash trees. Could the bee have come from over there? Andy almost felt compelled to touch the little thing, but stopped himself. It cocked it's head back and forth, black eyes staring out without blinking. The antennae on it's head swayed slowly in time with it's wings. Then, without warning, it leapt from the ledge and buzzed into the air. Andy tried to watch it go but soon it disappeared amidst the downfall.
            Leaving the window open, he sat back, and placed his palms behind him, leaning to look up at the still gray layer between the ground and the sky. The world was the same, he was not the same. With fingers numb now, the fog prints left on the glass by their heat long faded, he pushed against the hardwood. Monochromatic haze covered everything, but Andy noticed it now. All things were noticeable, noteworthy even. The room, the sheets, the dresser, the sky, the snow, the trees, the bee. His breath.
            In and out. He imagined the trunks of the trees outside to be the same as his larynx, their branches kin to his bronchial tubes. Andy looked at the thin twig-like branches of the White Ashes and the frozen motes of moisture that clung to them like white blood cells. Trees oxygenated all, but he could only breathe for himself. He thought of his mother again, and the time when she breathed for the both of them through one set of lungs.
            Cold, he stood up and put his hands in his jean pockets, walking around the small room without a purpose. There was a night table next to the head of the bed, atop which a few old books rested. He hadn't touched them since coming here, too busy to be bothered to move them. Picking them up now, he opened the top drawer and put them inside next to a stack of old papers. The papers drew his interest so he removed them and skimmed through. The documents were not of any importance. They seemed to be old sheets of notes, a bank statement, and a couple letters from friends that must not have been that important.
            It baffled and amazed Andy to think of the people he knew now living completely separate lives from his own. The extent of his consciousness was so limited yet it perceived each thing, each person, as intimate and personal. His mind began to speed up and from its nucleonic tresses he felt a tide coming in which had been absent from him for some time.
            Seeking to calm himself, Andy moved to the window, as was his custom. He resumed his cross-legged position and put his hands against the glass again. The cold was an anchor. It moved from the depths of the hardwood floor up through his bare ankle resting there. It penetrated past his one sock, paralyzed his toes, and stretched upward into his legs. From his fingers it crawled down like the tickling legs of spiders, spreading up to his bent wrists and gripping there. He closed his eyes.
How could he have forgotten about the grief? How had Andy never been able to grasp the guilt that always came hand-in-hand with the aforementioned before today? He breathed deeply and shut his eyelids together, bracing for the wave rather than trying to make it go away. By now he knew that it wouldn't go away through intentionally.

            When it was over and Andy felt like moving again, he found his way to the bed. The covers were cold to the touch, but he knew his body heat would turn the bed into an oven as soon as he was cocooned. He rolled in and pushed the pillows aside, electing to lie on his arm instead. It was the middle of the day and there was work to be done, but he didn't feel like doing anything. In his head, he mutely observed the contrast between how he'd felt after the closing of the door and how he felt now. The elation Grace had given him through the slightest gesture, and the guilt and terror he felt towards his absent, buried mother. How could this disparity exist within such a small span of time? He thought of the bee, of its flight, and of the moment it collided with the window pane.