My grandmother’s house was a place of constant danger. Visits were few and I came to hate them. They placed my father on the precipice of melancholy, ushering in weeks of feebleness. The scent of stale peas and Silk Cuts so thick you could taste it, hung stagnant about the doorstep. In the moment his feet scuffed the cracked threshold, you could see his childhood bloom in his eyes. Streaked cheeks, cracked plates and lonely nights exploded in riotous confusion, only to be cannibalised by the writhing vines of darker memories, battling for the sun of my grandmother’s perfume.
The front door sat heavily on its hinges. It was solid oak but for the stained glass window bearing the Virgin Mary. Mary’s complexion, the only thing cleaned in the house, would blaze clean and bright as I stood beside my father, lighting his face in a kaleidoscopic whirl. Pressing the doorbell was a daunting task, but my father would consent to his duty, firmly placing his finger down one, two, three times. Summoned by the echoed clanging, my grandmother would float down the hall, absorbing the light of the hallway, dimming Mary’s radiating countenance. My father’s face would be thrown into darkness. The door would open and light would strike him once more, unveiling a carefully constructed façade completed by a smile. My grandmother however, made no such attempt. A Silk Cut, placed in a jade holder held delicately between two fingers, rested against her once beautiful face. Her fingers would prod the wrinkles so deep they could be the domain of eagles and smoky tendrils would reach out to caress us and pull us into her nightmare.
The single couch, our perch for the next two hours, would be the centre of our collective discomfort. Inane talk projected at my grandmother over tea filled the time until mumbled observations and finally silence dominated the room. With nothing more to say, and no contribution from my grandmother, I would suggest we leave. With a reluctant nod, slowly my father would unwind himself, stretching the tendons and ligaments that coiled him tight in his gargoyle’s pose. A lingering goodbye and an extended search for misplaced keys would come next. My father’s carelessness, an affliction that ailed him only in his childhood home, reflected his life-long struggle. Meant to draw my grandmother out of her world into his, into his issues and his problems, he would fumble about waiting for some move of assistance, some interest. Sensing none, he would once more locate his keys in his right-hand pocket and we would step over the cracked threshold into the warmed car. Having again failed to prove himself as a valid vessel for her love, the tears would fall on the steering wheel and drip onto the seat. Slowly we would drive home, leaving my grandmother to waste her love on Silk Cuts, a long gone coward and a past she could not relive.
© Guy Chandler and The Wide Sargasso Gyre, 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Guy Chandler and The Wide Sargasso Gyre with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.