I hear the rustle of bags as you shuffle back and forth with each load, seeing you steadily concentrating, shifting carefully but quickly to manage the weight of the suitcase in the narrow, awkward hallway. I watch from a distance as you tread up and down the stairs, across the cold, bare floor with the steady rhythmic focus of a driver ant marching back to its nest.
Before, you had borne a half-smile on the one occasion. It had peeked out of the corner of your mouth, though not, of course, in my direction. Never in my direction. And though it had dissolved as quickly as it appeared, I was grateful for the rare display. I cherished it like a relic from our youth, an era when our souls bore only cracks. That was before our parents’ words of commendation – at times bestowed, then at other times withheld like currency and dispersed unequally – slowly turned the cracks into rifts, then over the years, chasms.
Today as I round the corner, there is no smile for me as I try to peer into the desert of your face. In its place is the line of your callused jaw, emanating its relentless message. Your silence lashes into me. It hangs in the air, heavy as the floor-to-ceiling brocade that grazes the living room floor.
Upstairs, all the doors in the house are closed, barring the sunlight that normally streams in and dances off the small chandelier. Instead, only dark shadows imprint themselves on the landing. I feel the weight of their gloom – the thousands of untold grievances buried deep inside the walls.
Finally, you announce your last load. I hear you issue farewells, but in another language the lyric chatter banishes me, casting me into a tomb in the Tower of Babylon.
You turn and leave. You confront me with your rigid shoulders, your cold spine, and even as I watch the small of the back of your head slowly shrinking, I know that the map of your face bears for me only the legend of your black, sering eyes, your thin, taught mouth.
And after your final steps, I gaze past at the barren cloak of snow that arrived wordlessly in the night. In its whiteness it bears no identity, no history, a dense blanket that tells no tales, reveals no secrets. And I stand there wondering how long it will stay, muffling the stifled, frozen grass below, bearing down with all its weight.