Maggie cursed the moment she tuned into HGTV channel becoming instantly hooked on every home remodel show that promised incredible home makeover results with just a bit of hard work and creativity. Surrounding her were piles of rubbish, half removed carpet, undone floorboards, over sanded cabinets, crookedly painted wall, shuttered kitchen sink, backsplash peeling off the wall, and about ten other projects she attempted, failing to exhibit the mastery she was so convinced that she possessed. Everything was an utter failure.
The sound escaping her mouth could have been a cry or a laugh, possibly a hybrid of both as her memory drifted back to watching that cursed HGTV channel. She engulfed every episode, often foregoing sleep to consume every possible pointer and advice that came at her from the illuminated screen. It really looked just so easy and the inspiration flooded her from every corner of her house that remained in the neutral state of averageness.
Armed with hundreds of hours’ worth of inspiration floating through her head, she walked into Lowe’s like a boss. Gliding from aisle to aisle, her cart becomes fuller with every turn. There was no need to ask for advice or to see if something worked with another item she picked up. She had this down packed. Soon enough a second and third cart joined the caravan and just three hours later, Maggie made her way to the register.
Her elation was not as infections as she had anticipated, prompting the cashier catching a glimpse of her approaching to reach up, attempting to turn his light off. She swiftly placed her first item on the belt beating him by just a millisecond. His inaudible sigh resonated with her but failed to sway her enthusiasm.
“Is this exciting?” she was so eager to share details of her new project with a stranger.
“Probably not for your husband.” he moved at a pace that made her question his qualifications to work at this store.
“Husband?” she clearly took offense to his statement
“I mean, of course, you must have a construction crew, but he is going to be overseeing it all?”
She was adamant about not letting him ruin her bliss. Perhaps she trying to weigh her options if getting into it with him would be worth her while when she began to assess his appearance. He was tall, skinny, his brown hair with a slight curl went down to his ears. She could see acne scars on his face and realized just how young he really was. There was no need to wage this war.
“There is no crew, I’m doing this project.”
“By yourself?” it was now his turn to assess her. He scanned her five-foot-six body not missing the extra twenty pounds on her frame. Her long golden-brown hair was neatly formed into a bun, she wore designer jeans that matched perfectly with a flower embellished top. The outfit was clearly picked out by someone who has a good grasp on fashion. Paired with high-heeled sandals the look certainly didn’t scream construction savvy or capable.
“Yes,” her bliss was wavering “Do you have a problem with that?”
That phrase sent her into a tailspin, she could feel her emotions rising fast and this teenager was about to receive the brunt of a thesis paper she wrote on societal expectations based on gender.
“It’s just,” he continued “It’s just such a large job. Even someone with years of construction experience would have a hard time getting all of this done.”
Her anger pacified as he glanced at the clock and realized that she has been in here for much longer than she anticipated.
“I appreciate your advice.” her voice regained familiar neutrality.
He was just as eager to deescalate the situation and continued his job in silence that was frequently interrupted by the scanning sound of the machine. She certainly appreciated once he picked up his speed and was able to organize everything back into her carts.
“That would be three thousand, five hundred seventy-five and three cents.” he somehow managed to avoid eye contact by looking over the over-packed carts to make sure that nothing would fall out. She groaned thinking back at how much she spent that day and the damage she caused by not heeding to his warning.
The excitement quickly wore off. She jumped from one project to another with great enthusiasm which sizzled when the beginning results looked far from the perfection presented on the TV screen. No matter where her gaze would fall a pile of shambles was a constant reminder of yet another failure that kept her stuck inside for weeks. She was just about to wave the white flag when her sight befell upon that wall.
Somehow it remained intact among its comrades that didn’t fare so well. She should have rejoiced at the sight of something she had yet to ruin. Yet, the wall wasn’t peacefully existing, it was in mocking her. Its plain white exterior beckoned for a skillful hand to spruce it up, to give it a shiny new colorful armor. Maggie's hands didn’t possess such skills. A standoff laced with anthropomorphism ensued as Maggie could sense the walls’ mockery becoming bolder and louder. At its apex, Maggie let out a battle cry grabbing a nearby sledgehammer and charged at the wall. A momentary sense of euphoria washed over her as the tip of the sledgehammer contacted the wall. But her satisfaction proved to be short-lived, morphing into curiosity with the sensation of the sledgehammer hitting something hard beyond the wall.
Examining the hole, she could see that the wall in front of her seemed to have been just a façade covering another structure. She eagerly got to work, as yet another project seemed to have present itself. Within minutes there was enough of the wall cleared away, revealing a door made of thick wood now prominently displaying a dent as well as another wall cleverly concealed by an unassuming white exterior.
Perhaps this would have been the time to weigh her options of whether it was safe or worthwhile to open and go beyond this mystery door. But it has been that kind of a day where desperation was at an all-time high and this door presented a wonderful distraction. Turning the handle, she slowly cracked the door open.
As anyone in her place would imagine, her mind came up with countless scenarios of what may lie beyond the door. The one she settled upon, was a discovery of a long stairway leading down to a basement where she was to find money, jewels and perhaps some long-forgotten painting touched by the hand of a well-known artist. Her heart accelerated as the anticipation of a great discovery took over her every thought. Turning on the flashlight on her cell phone she took a deep breath and stepped inside.
To her great disappointment, there was no staircase leading down, she found herself in a small room comparable to a walk-in closet. Another benefits of binge-watching television, are all the shows dedicated to uncovering treasures in storage units. All hope was not lost. She located a light switch which to her surprise worked and a single light bulb overhead illuminated the room before her.
A thick layer of dust accumulated over the years, but it was very clear, there was no great treasure to uncover there. The table standing just two feet from her was her first discovery. A vintage black typewriter prominently displaying the name Royal in white-painted letters caught her attention first. Its keys were almost entirely worn out from constant use. She paused to think how many stories those keys retold as they flowed from the fingers of those who wielded this beautifully made machine. One of those stories laid neatly in a stack to the right of the typewriter fastened together by braided twine. There was a journal on the left labeled “Ideas” whose cover was stained with ink. Noticeable underneath the table a wastebasket filled with crumpled up papers of what Maggie assumed were ideas that failed to flourish but they were not ready to be completely disregarded as the basked was never emptied.
Two shelves above the table displayed a radio that was vintage in appearance but most likely was made that way to evoke a certain sense of nostalgia, a bottle of wine and photo album. Otherwise, the room was empty if you didn’t count the envelope with an inscription that reads “Son”. Everything was meticulously placed to serve a purpose or to continue a story that was put on pause when this room was covered up.
Maggie thought back to seven months ago when she got a glimpse of the owner during the open house. He must have been in his late forties, dressed in a business suit and glued to his cell phone. She would be hard-pressed to describe his appearance, but she did remember the business-like nature of his interaction with the real estate agent. He gave off a certain vibe of someone who is in a constant hurry with little time to waste on sentimental things. While “time is money” attitude he conveyed was certainly off-putting, to her, he was a nameless bystander who would only appear in her path for a few minutes never to be thought of again. Until today.
Certainly, he must be that son this letter was referring to. An absent son to be precise. While Maggie can’t exactly pass for a social butterfly she certainly did her rounds in meeting the neighbors, getting an earful of the nice old gentleman who used to live in her house for many years without one sighting of any visitors. A story that certainly elicited much sorrow upon hearing it but drifted from her mind as soon as she crossed the threshold of her house and life began to pose its own distractions.
It’s seemed voyeuristic to open the letter that was never intended to be touched by her hands, yet she did. The letter read as follows:
January 21, 1972
Today, you took your first breath. I won't try to be fanciful with my words or attempt to articulate the feeling of holding you for the first time. Someday, you will know that feeling. It’s strange, you don’t even have a name, yet no man of more importance could possibly exist. I make a promise to you today to do all that I can in giving you the brightest future and endless opportunities. That is why I must seal up this room and pause my writing as it does not provide a steady paycheck and let's be honest, it's just a hobby. My hope is that on your twenty-fifth birthday we will unseal this room together and drink the wine I’m placing today in honor of your birth. Let’s think of this room as a time capsule that will allow you to learn more about your father and the passion I once had.
Maggie couldn’t contain her emotions as tears began flowing freely down her face. What could have possibly happened to prevent this promise from coming to fruition? She thought of boxing up the contents of this room and shipping it to the son. But, instantly becoming judge and jury she decided that the son did not deserve to have it. The words written by this man can’t remain contained by yet another box.
She took out her phone and dialed a now-familiar number. Wiping her tears away she reached for the manuscript gently brushed the dust of it.
“Hey Megs!” a cheery female voice broke through.
“Laura, good.” Maggie’s tone was much more businesslike.
“Ohh, this sounds serious” the voice resonated with much hope
“I have the perfect project to pitch.”
“Don’t tell me you found the next great American novel while demoing your house?” her voice didn’t even have a hint of disbelief.
“I haven’t even read it yet,” she paused "but I have the perfect dedication, To all the sons that forgot.”