23 January 2007

Nonsense and Freewrite

My grandfather's house had this room, at the front of the house, that my brothers and I, as children, were not allowed to enter. Looking back, it's completely possible that we were allowed to go in there, but there was something secret and pure about it. It was the only room in the house that seemed to ever have light, this due to its location facing the street, looking out over a southern California suburban paradise. The rest of the house was dark and cold. I can't even remember the colors of the living room, except the gray. The gray smothered everything. Brick walls, cold tiled floor and ugly Grandpa rug, stone fireplace, all gray.

The kitchen countertops were all a tacky green marble, a remnant from the 50s or the 70s or some other time where people must have been color blind. An empty space between the cupboards and counters created a bar area, and at the end of the kitchen was a small hallway through a washroom to the door that opened to the backyard. The small rectangle window on the door was the only window in the kitchen.

In the backyard was a swimming pool, shaped like a lima bean or a kidney, surrounded by decaying grass. The pool shone pristine and blue, bright as a diamond, bright as the forbidden room. In the deep end, 8 feet down, bolted to the bottom, was a bronzed seahorse.

We - my parents and three brothers - would visit my grandfather in the summertime, excited for the chance to swim in a pool. Growing up in Hawaii, you would think swimming wasn't a big deal. We could go to the beach whenever we wanted, but to have a pool all to ourselves, where no one could bother us and we could ignore the rest of the world, that was treasure.

My grandfather, Harry, watched from the patio, protected from the sun by a beige awning. Every once in awhile he'd walk up the pathway toward the pool only to stop halfway there, at a weathered sundial. The stone of the thing cracked and it had lost its color ages ago, but the grass at it's wide circular foot flourished and each blade hung over itself, pulled down by its own weight. He'd stand there with his hands on his hips, fingers stroking the corduroy in search of stimulation, eyes fixed on the gnomon.

I was afraid of my grandfather. I was 9 or 10, maybe 6 or 7, shit I don't know. The fact is years would pass between seeing him; he was nothing more than a stranger I was related to.

As he stood before the sundial squinting his wrinkled gray eyes, watching so hard it seemed to hurt him, I walked over and stood next to him.

"What are you doing Grampa?" I asked.

He looked down at me with those gray eyes, reached his hand out to touch me, dropped it on the back of my neck. I froze under his leathery palms, tried not to imagine the thin hairs growing from the back of his hand. He lifted his hand and looked at it, inspected the moisture that clung to my neck from the swimming pool and now clung to his palm. He rubbed his hands together and looked at down to me again.

"Trying to make the shadow move faster," he said.

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