I feel lucky to be still standing by the lake across from where my beloved lives. People are enjoying the outdoor reception area with its floors of smooth mirror-like stone, and the eye is drawn to a wide panorama dotted with sailboats. As it starts to get dark, the lights discreetly turn on. All around, fancily dressed people are enjoying cocktails, laughing at each other’s jokes, and closing business deals. They try to tell me about their positions in commodities or the tech companies they've started, but I feel so happy I can only listen distractedly. Instead, I look down at the lake beach stretching out lazily below me and watch wedding invitees playing in the water under the gentle orange rays of the evening sun. Inside, I hear children laughing and carelessly running past priceless works of art, and I feel a kinship with them because I’m starting anew too!
I remember an empty feeling at first—the smell of fresh pine and new beginnings. A family had moved in, bringing all sorts of things I had never seen before. There were toys for the children neatly put away in the bedrooms. In the kitchen, there was the smell of fresh herbs, shiny metal pans hanging on the walls, and stacks of white plates. There was an air of kindness and order everywhere around. At the time, I thought everyone lived like this and that this was just the way of the world. Every family member was special in their own way, but most of all, the middle daughter, a pale and charming presence, wearing long dresses, as she played with the baby and his worn-out wooden toys while the eldest son practiced archery near the orchard. That eldest son was always getting into trouble, but as he became older, I started to like him more. As the years went on, I noticed for the first time that objects had gently accumulated in the attic and basement. The toy horse, the gymnastics equipment, the box of Polaroid photo memories. They were my memories, too, even as they lay collecting dust and moldering.
Then one day, there appeared a lovely green light shining from the tall and elegant house across the lake, and that was the beginning of our love. The eldest boy started stealing away on a boat, each time bringing back a touch of that house's floral and understated perfume, and a few whispered words, to which I always sent back my reply, our subtle messages growing more and more passionate over time. It took a few years, but to me, it was no time at all before there were plans for a wedding that would unite both houses. But then something happened, and the wedding was called off. Perhaps something untoward was discovered about the other family, or there was a falling out between the lovers. Everyone was silent about it, and I was heartbroken to no longer be able to speak with my beloved. For years I watched the shimmering light she shone for me across the lake, trying in vain to respond until finally, it went out.
As more years passed, the people fell off like apples from a tree. The children moved out, and the parents grew old together. The first to go was the husband and then the wife. The children inherited it all, but they wasted their inheritance, and before long, they had to sell because they needed the money.
Other families came and went. For many years, there was a bed and breakfast, and I met all sorts of different people from all walks of life. Then, an eccentric and famous writer kept me company for a long while and left the study all stained with pipe smoke. At least I had finally met someone who appreciated classic architecture like me. One day, I saw him looking across the lake, and I felt he somehow understood the story of my beloved and me. He's the only one who ever understood. He even took a boat there and came back with fresh news that made my old heart jump with happiness. She had also waited all these years for me! But even that unexpected joy slowly faded as the years slipped away like grains of sand, my writer friend passed away, and I had to say goodbye. I'll always cherish some things of his buried deep in my countless closets and cupboards.
Again, a new family came, cleaned up, and took away some of my precious memories. But as the children grew up, I made many new memories with them. Unfortunately, the husband and wife drifted apart over time. I heard every little part of that tragedy. They compensated for their arguments by getting many more things. Perhaps they thought they were building a kind of physical barrier to shield themselves from each other. When the husband finally left, the wife's obsession grew wilder and out of control. There was an ever-lengthening catalog of items to gather for her interior decorator profession. Spools of beautiful fabric and endless rug samples with faded labels. Memories filled room after room to the brim until some had to be stored outside. There was clothing bought and never worn, stained with water and animal droppings—bargain deals from the store, with yellowed tags showing prices from ten or twenty years ago.
It was raining, and I could feel the old roof slowly becoming moss-covered and rotting. My halls and rooms were clogged up, and ideas and people could only travel slowly across them. All I had left was to think back on my many memories. Most precious of all, I still held on to the old pictures of the son who was to marry the daughter across the lake on my promised wedding day. I remembered how sweet it was when by sailboat, they would daily bring tokens of their love back and forth, unknowingly also carrying ours.
Then, one day, I woke up, and men were taking away my precious memories! I tried to fight back, but there was nothing I could do. They took away the toy horse, almost a century old, and threw it in the dumpster. They took the box of Polaroids and tossed that too. They took all those great deals the lady had collected, a hoard of cosmetics bottles able to fill a gaping cave with crystal, and these suffered the same fate. Soon, I was down to a sea of papers on the ground: bills, well-wishing letters, birthday cards and report cards, offers of gutter repairs which I badly needed, but even those were dwindling like a blanket of dirty snow melting away and at last showing the mouse-eaten floors that hadn’t been seen in years. There were also the bare walls smeared with stains, their old flaking paint covered with a labyrinth of fine cracks. There was nothing left to hold on to.
I thought it would be the end, but a few weeks later, there was a new beginning. Other men came to remodel and breathed new life into my ancient bones. Soon, I realized I had to let go of all those old memories so that I could be reunited with her.
This finally brings us back to the wedding reception taking place on my grounds. The day has finally come for my beloved and I to be married, as a boy from my family and a girl from hers are to be joined together within my halls. Everyone is talking happily, and I hear so much news about my love that it overwhelms me. I know she’s here with me, and I’m there with her. We’re connected now, and it’s for life. Both families dance together in my outdoor reception area, and she once again blinks her green light at me in this moment of our union as the boats go back and forth, bearing our many messages within them.