Most stories are about people.
They’re by people, for people, from the perspective of people.
This story is different.
This is a story about a place.
A place whose walls have heard secrets that still go untold. Whose floors have creaked time after time, whose ceilings have blocked out rain and snow and sleet, whose doors have been closed and slammed and left open at times, a place that’s housed family after family after family. It’s watched people fall in love, young people. The same people cry and fight and leave.
And all to have another family come and make their own memories. Drill their own nails into the walls and hang their own pictures. And the cycle restarts, and the place grows older and older and older.
This place’s story begins in the summer, in the hot sun and heat. The person who built it is long gone now, buried six feet under in an old cemetery, where his ghost sits peacefully, maybe reading this story here.
But where we start telling it is spring.
To be precise, April 24th at 3:06pm sharp.
The neighbor is mowing his lawn, the other neighbor has her windows shut as always (she’s a little suspicious, but this story isn’t about her) and our perfect place is standing tall, because she knows there are new people coming.
When the car comes, sputtering gas and gunk and spitting out a man with more wrinkles than skin, the house shuts her windows a little tighter. The big red ‘sold’ on the small white sign bothers the man, and he kicks it down as he examines the grass.
The house wonders if this man will bring little kids to run in her halls, or perhaps a partner to watch sunsets with on her roof.
But the man walks in and closes the door, and doesn’t take his shoes off. He fingers the couch and sighs and our little house wants to be everything he desires.
She knows there are bigger, better, places he could be, but he chose her, didn’t he?
On May 28th at 4:07pm sharp when he finally brings someone else into her living room, she doesn't seem like the sunset watching type. They start shouting before they talk and our house, our little perfect house thinks it’s all her fault.
And in a way, maybe it is. But we won’t tell her that, will we? She’s a bit sensitive, with her old wooden floors and weak brick walls. Her wallpaper is faded and her lights sometimes flicker, and the man thinks maybe he shouldn’t have come.
The lady likes it. The lady thinks it’s nice. Our house thinks maybe she should just stay and the man could leave and find somewhere else to sleep and eat and yell. He seems to like yelling.
When she leaves, the house wonders if she will ever again become a home, for this man is not the homey type.
And sometime in June when he sits in front of her precious TV, remote in one hand and cocktail in the other, she stares with her windows out at the trees and wonders if children are meant to ever climb them again.
She grows restless and tired and thinks maybe her housing days are soon coming to a close. She dreams, as only the best houses dream, about wrecking balls coming and destroying her wood in the night. In the day, she watches the man closely, her woodchips on edge.
She waits. Because what more can a house do, but wait and watch?
The woman comes back in July, and she is no happier than the last time she was here. Her hair is a little less tight, and maybe her eyes are a little more tired. The man has left our house’s perfect living room a mess and the house blushes, her floors shifting in shame.
The woman gestures to the glass on the floor and utters words that leave the man red with something our house assumes is not love. Of course, she can only guess, for houses cannot speak. They can listen, and they understand laughter. They know when the tears falling on their floors are happy or sad, and they try to comfort you when you lay awake on your covers at midnight by highering the heat.
But right now, sometime in August, our house sighs, her pipes groaning and her TV still on. She wants this man, this unloving man, to get in his dirty car and get it out of her driveway pronto. And then she wants someone to come and vacuum her floors from every trace of pretzel down to the last grain of salt.
The man sweats on her couch like it’s a sauna, and he brings bag after plastic bag into her living room. Her poor kitchen remains untouched and our house thinks, hopes, that maybe that means he’ll leave soon.
That hope is lost in September when the man wears heavy work boots all around the house. He brings in leaves of orange and red and while the house does not deny their beauty, she’d rather watch them from afar with fogged-up windows, with kids at the windowsills and autumn love stories happening inside her doors. Our house longs for adventure but she’s a house so the only adventure she gets are the ones that happen inside her walls.
At this time before, the kids in her rooms were getting ready for school with too full backpacks and slightly teary-eyed parents.
Now her floor goes unmopped and her windows unwashed, and the bedrooms unoccupied. Her tears are just early October frost running down her windowsills, and her grass bends sadly into the dirt, wanting out.
Our house does not dare put her hopes up as the end of October nears, for she knows all the children in the block, all her neighbors will come and ask for candy. The man certainly has enough to spare.
But on the night when all the other houses have been decorated with fake webs and spiders, our little house remains dark and closed and bare, with a small paper taped to her door. It itches and she wants to remove it, but she can’t. Her windows are too high to see- but she knows it’s telling all the children to go away.
Late at night, the woman comes, her face painted and a tail attached to her pants. She slams papers on the table, along with an uncapped pen and the man rolls his eyes.
It’s well into December before our little house is given relatively fresh air anymore. Her heaters are turned on and her pipes groan in boredom. The man buys blankets and our house remembers moments in which kids would giggle and make forts and watch movies with hot cocoa mustaches on their lips, all in the living room that's been reduced to mess now.
The trees outside grow bare and bony and our house remembers sheltering one, a green one, this time last year. It does not matter. The man shuns the carolers away and scrolls bored on his phone all day. No cookies are baked in her kitchen and no presents wrapped secretly in her rooms.
And when the new year comes by- no noise at midnight at all, but for the man’s consistent snoring.
January is cold and snow coats our house’s path. Footprints don’t dent it until early February, when a new person comes by. The man grunts and removes himself from the couch.
This boy, maybe this boy will knock some sense into this man, that’s what the little house thinks.
He’s a boy scout in cargo shorts and a hat, his knees shaking and skin red with cold, but his smile remains intact and his cookies-- of course unbought.
The woman does not come back in February, which is strange for the house. She remembers something special happening on some day last year that time, with heart-shaped balloons and dark red roses that made her rooms smell real nice.
But the man stays on his couch, for the most part, all until March, when dandelions start growing in our house’s field. Her grass has grown tall and the man bothers not to mow it. His beard has grown longer.
He complains of boredom to anyone who will listen in his gruff voice to the suspicious next-door neighbor or the woman if she ever comes.
And that woman, that woman watches sometimes, she’ll come in her small black car and look through the windows. She hopes each time that something will change with this man, because she loved him once.
When that woman, when she comes back April 24th, looking to see if something’s changed, she sees the worst thing has.
The small white sign is being put up again, just as the clock strikes 3:06pm.