"And I find it kind of funny
I find it kind of sad
The dreams in which I'm dying
Are the best I've ever had"Mad World (2001) by Michael Andrews and Gary Jules
Credit where it's due; the song was Tears for Fears', but I like this version so much better.
I saw something a few hours back in a moment of quiet and it pained me. It's not an image because I was not thinking. It's not a dream because I was not asleep. And it's not a memory because it never happened. Call it a vision. I saw a living room which showed the decades it had been lived in. It showed in its mismatched furniture, in their woodwork worn and fraying stitches - in parts broken or rotted off and halfheartedly mended. It showed in the dust which covered the high places and in the corners which the rheumy eyes of an old woman could not see. It showed in its faded colours, like an old photograph leached of presence and warmth behind the yellowing glass of a picture frame. Like those photographs on the shelf of children before they were grown, before they left and would not call or visit. Like that one in the middle, in the biggest frame, of a woman and a man in love which death did apart. There were magazines no longer in publication under the coffee table. There was a dogeared novel on it, read many times because it was someone's favourite. There was a small television, the last and sole companion through all the nights of a life wasting away alone. And there was fire.
The fire crept all across the room remorseless and unfeeling - dutiful even. It devoured the armchair which had a depression in its seat from the years it had been sat on. It took the novel and erased all its words with black. It took the dessicated flowers and their vase. It took the coffee table they were on. The television. The curtains. The carpet. Everything. And it clawed its way up the shelf where little knickknacks of uncertain sentimental worth were hoarded and where the photographs stood. The glass of their frames shattered from the heat, and the memories were shriveled and destroyed. Everything was the same. Everything burns.
The little living room was ablaze and an old woman upstairs wakes up to the smell of smoke and loss. No, she did not wake up because she was not asleep. She was half-awake lying in a bed meant for two, wondering where the happiness went and blinking at the ceiling with eyes wet with not-quite tears. With much difficulty, she got out of bed and groped her way out her bedroom and felt the banister down the stairs. And there she found the fire.
She did not run or call for help. She just stood there and stared stupidly at the orange flames for nearly a minute. Then, breaking the inertia of credulity, she hurried to the bathroom and filled a pail. Shuffling back as quickly as her knees would allow her, she threw the water lamely into the burning living room. She tried again. And again. And again. All the time, the fire just grew rampant and spread amok, sneering at her efforts. But still the old woman persisted stubbornly.
That was when she slipped and fell.
Before it was too late, a neighbour found her sitting on the floor in a puddle of water spilled from her pail, and carried her out of house. The firemen came, but the fire had already claimed the first floor and the roof. It was collapsing on the lifetime it had weathered and on the ghost of the family it once sheltered.
The old woman sat like a child on the asphalt, crying piteously. Her nightdress was scorched in places and there were burns on her hands. Her elbows and knees were bleeding from the fall she took. They tried to talk to her but she would not say a thing. They tried to make her stand up, to take her further away from the burning house - but she would not budge. She had lived in that house for so very long and so alone that she was no longer to able to recall a life apart from it. In her old age of dignified sorrow and of senility, she lost it. It was her little time capsule, her private moment in time and familiarity. Now, she's out on her own in a terrifying new world she could not understand.
That's how my vision ended; the old woman sitting like a child on the ground in front of her burning home, confused, lost and crying.
She would not stop crying.
k0k s3n w4i