There’s a vase in the attic. Simple as that, really.
It is old, and it belonged to an ancestor of many great-greats, my nana once told me. I remember hearing that from her when I was maybe five, and I guess it just stuck with me. And since I have known this little fact since I was maybe five, the age when all things seem a little more important than they really are, I have never thought of this little fact as a very dull fact to know. In fact, I think of it as a very exciting one to have and to hold knowledge to. That is, by the fact that this own mundane fact of mine is something only I know of.
I smile at it because it’s so simple. My nana lit the incandescent Klarus flashlight and unhooked the latter to the attic to show me the vase that day. She said a lot about the vase while braiding my hair into pigtails, but I wasn’t paying attention to much that she was saying. As I said before, I was only five years old.
It’s been years since that moment, though, and the latter to the attic has since rusted from neglect. The existence of the vase is an exciting thing to know now, now that it is so many years later and now that everything else about my life has become as simple as that moment—well, simple enough. It means I hold a small morsel of the world's knowledge over a lot more people than I could ever count.
I know what color the vase is. I know its shape. I know how much it should weigh and how much force it would take to even break the thing. Whether it is truly a beautiful vase or just any other forgettable one from an out-of-business manufacturing outlet. I know its every brush stroke, pottery line, hole, crevice, and curved rim. Even though now it’s nothing but a useless secret between my grandmother and I.
Whether or not this is a fact I care to know or not, there are still days when I just get bored. It just happens sometimes. Too gray, too windy, too cold or hot days, and all the days when I do nothing but watch other people or things do nothing. And today just happens to be one of those days. The reason why today is so dull and boring is simple: it’s raining outside.
I spent all morning running errands for my mother. I wanted to do something nice for her, but I guess it’s just my luck that I chose one of the rainiest days of the year to be running around the city. But I’ve been lonely without Erick, anyway. And without a cat or dog or something like that, I’ve been longing to be around a family even more lately. Erick drove to Atlanta three days ago on account of his carpeting business, and he isn’t expected to come back for another three days on account of the fact that it’s raining everywhere right now. So here I am right now, sleeping in my old room/new guest room for a couple nights because I’m a lonely child who misses her mom and brother.
In reality, part of the reason I wanted to come back was because of the vase I know is in the attic. I only saw the vase once, when I had been sleeping on my nana’s lap for hours and woke up asking for another rainy day story. I was so captured by the vase at that moment that I actually tried climbing into the attic a week later. The only thing that stopped me was when the fourth step to the top broke under my feet and almost sent me to an eight foot collapse on the floor below. After that, I never tried climbing into the attic again. I don’t think I was scared of heights or climbing the ladder, but something told me I was meant to stay away from the attic from then on.
It was as simple as that, really.
After making a breakfast of eggs and sandwich bread this morning, my mom hugged me tight. I hugged her tighter. It was nice to be around her, relaxing and comforting, almost as if I had never left her at all.
“Play with your brother. Owen talks about you when you’re not here,” she then told me, holding my face between the cusps of her hands.
I looked down. I had forgotten about my little brother up until that moment. I wish I was not such a bad older sister, but my mother’s voice to me only confirmed what I had already thought of myself.
“Yeah.” I looked up at my mom. “I should. Okay.”
In the preceding moments of my family insecurities, I followed the quiet laughter of my little brother to an empty space near his bedroom. He was playing with his blocks, stacking them one after another on top of each other, and building the surrounding features of a true block empire. I sat down beside him.
“Hey Owen,” I said and instantly regretted my words. He looked at me, staring at me, and my heart rate couldn’t help but quicken in the icy grayness of his blue eyes.
His stare is simple, notable. Ever since our mom brought him home from the hospital, I felt the chills shoot up my spine any moment that I ever felt his eyes on me. It was an entrancing look I could feel in my soul, something so terrifyingly sweet, that all I could say about his stare is that it is simple and notable.
But the way Owen looks at me is always just a stare. I was days from graduating high school when he was born. And when he stares at me like that, I always seem to wonder if he knows whether or not he was not my main priority when he was born. I don’t know a lot of things about him, and the stare he gives only confirms how obvious that little fact is.
So, I told my brother I knew what was in the attic. He looked at me with a dull expression. But he is six. And since he is six years old and still has some of the interest of a five-year-old, he relieved my building sense of incompetence by asking me what was in the attic.
I lowered my face to just above his head, doing my best to add some suspense to my answer the way my nana had done to me when I was five. I tried giving a small smile, too, so that he could also smile. “A vase.”
He balanced the next wooden block on his tower of make-believe kings and queens. I didn’t know what to say next.
There were times when it’s hard to talk to Owen, and now just happened to be one of those times. He’s so much younger than me; I forget he’s even my brother at times. A nephew I think at times. A nephew who you buy a Christmas gift for once a year, and never see again until the following year when you visit their home to say hello, all to see the unwrapped gift collecting dust in the corner of a closet.
In a way, I felt that Owen had already declined my invitation to ever gift him anything. Let alone pass him one of his other blocks. So I said nothing more to him for a while. We simply sat there, next to each other but as far away as possible in some of the longest seconds of my life. Owen was immersed in his world. He laughed to himself at these random intervals, and at each interval his laugh became more boisterous and loud.
He became aware of his laughter soon, it then becoming softer and softer as I continued saying nothing to him. I don’t know why, but this may have been the most genuine enjoyment I’ve ever seen from a person. He made a forceful faceplant on the floor and rolled around the empty space of the carpet the way little boys do at times.
But then he stopped and stared at me again, smiling this time. His stare at me made me want to tell him something again.
“It’s kind of dark. Do you want me to turn on the lights?” I asked, already standing on my knees to get up. I had to stand up. Move and take myself away from this uncomfortable situation for a moment. Luckily, Owen nodded.
I jumped at the ceiling fan to turn on the lights, falling back to the ground with a thud. But I missed the chain and had to jump again, another hard thump on the floor when I fell back. I was laughing until Owen shrieked. His shout pierced through my ears, and I turned my head suddenly.
His tower had fallen.
He looked at me and began to cry. Then he got up and kicked the standing remains of his tower over, screaming, yelling at something on the ground that wasn’t really on the ground.
I didn’t know what to say, what to do, or how to react. I really didn’t. I don’t know anything specific about him that I could say to show sympathy. I don’t know what the best thing for him to hear is. What’s important to somebody like Owen?
“Did I tell you that the vase in the attic is magic?”
He pouted. “Magic’s not real.”
“Don’t believe me?”
“No,” he grumbled, “there’s nothing in the attic.”
“Hey.” I paused because I didn’t really know what to say. I just feel awkward around them when I know they can see right through me. Like this clumsy thing that causes more harm than good for people who don’t deserve such hurt. “There is something in the attic. And I feel bad, Owen. Okay? I want to show something cool at least.”
I stood up from my circle on the floor to go to the attic, hoping that Owen would follow me, or at the very least give me some sort of patience. Something to work with so that I could maybe come to understand the brother I may never really know more. The vase wasn't important, anyway. It's just a simple red vase from however long ago. I can't even say why I wanted Owen to follow me so much.
But then I heard it: a footstep. A quiet one that made me beam from inside so much. I quickened my pace as I reached for the string to unlock the rusty attic door. I looked behind me to make sure that he was safe climbing up the ladder. He was, even at the fourth to last step.
We climbed in together. Owen walked around the small room in search of the magic vase I told him would be there. I couldn't tell whether he believed what I said or not, though, or if he was just living by the illusion of the whole situation.
"There's no vase in here," he said in a sulky voice.
I had been sure that the vase had been unmoved since I last saw it, but when I looked around I saw nothing. The thought came to me that maybe it wasn't there. For some reason, I couldn't believe that thought, though. I looked around once more and instantly saw the vase in the center of the room, almost as if it had appeared out of thin air. I didn't want to believe that either.
At that moment, I had looked around and saw the same things as I had before when I was maybe five. An old bird cage hanging from some wooden boards. Machines for the heater forming spiderwebs on the side. And the incandescent Klarus flashlight standing upright on a corner table. I picked it up.
"There, in the middle, see?" I shook Owen's shoulder to see if he still cared enough to look at the not-magic vase. He did, thankfully, and so we went.
As we moved closer to the vase at the center of the attic, I couldn't help but doubt some things. I doubted that Owen and I would ever have a real relationship. That he would just grow up from his wooden blocks and hardly-used Nintendo disc games to think of me as a terrible sister. One he only had one memorable moment with on a rainy day when he was maybe six.
I stopped walking when we reached the vase. A noise like critters crawling around endlessly came from inside, like a whisper next to my ear.
I flashed the light at the vase impulsively. Hoping the shining light would scare away the thing if there was something in there. It must have been the first time in ages that a light was ever shone at the dark hollows of that vase. Owen and I peered inside, the noise of the vase settling down as our faces went nearer. Owen gripped my hand.
But what was found was just so simple.