The Perfect Metaphor
“It was a long drive and there’s nobody out here, are you sure this is a good idea?“ My lover looked at me sympathetically as his words filled the silence.
“Yes!” was all I said.
The car door opened with some resistance. David lifted me out of a black pickup truck and stood me on the dilapidated blacktop. “You sure you don’t want me to go with you?” David asked in a way that was both gentle, but at the same time seemed unintentionally disparaging.
I shook my head and made my way around the side of the house. As I looked down at the remains of a little white picket fence, a drop of salt water trickled down the side of my face.
I was taken back to a simpler time. A summer day when I was watched a garden snake sun itself on one of the rocks my grandmother had placed in the garden. As I watch the creature sleep I asked my grandmother why such a strange creature wouldn’t take shelter.
She knelt down to my level, putting her wrinkled hand on my shoulder. She said, “all God’s creatures have a purpose darling, a grass snake, like this one,” she pointed down, “protects my garden from bugs, that way my flowers don’t get eaten.”
I watched as a small beetle made its way onto one of my grandmother’s zinnias. The snake slinked its way across the pink flowers and devoured the insect.
“My flowers are safe for another day.” She smiled.
The world seemed to be spinning. I knelt down to the ground and picked one of the vibrant orange flowers from the soil.
David walked over to me. “Are you okay?” he asked me; his voice was gentle.
“I will be, but I don’t want to do this by myself,” I said as I laced his fingers in mine.
He brought my hand up to his mouth and kissed it. The bright pink nail polish on my nails had started crack.
“That’s a perfect metaphor,” David said as he caressed my fingers.
“What is?” I asked.
“Your nails. They are vibrant and beautiful when you take care of them. Sometimes beautiful things can fall by the wayside, but just like with your nails, a fresh coat of paint and some love can bring this place right back to life.” His voice sounded hopeful as he spoke.
He pulled open the screen door and the flimsy piece of metal came off of its hinges.
“Okay, well, we need a new screen door,” I said, trying to stay calm. I moved the piece of hollow plastic made to look like a rock, and a bright green snake slithered out from under the rock and across my purple Converse.
“We woke up the poor snake for a key that is nowhere to be found,” my love said sadly.
Without missing a beat, I turned the doorknob and the door opened effortlessly.
The lush green carpet from childhood memories was now wearing away, exposing a dirty tan underside. I shudder to think of how my grandmother would feel. Someone had cut the head off of her favorite Winnie the Pooh doll. I picked him up. “This little guy used to sing songs about honey,” I said as I tearfully held him in my arms.
David came up and placed his hand on my back gently. Without a word, I turned and made my way to a small room off the side of the room which we had been standing in. Walking into the room was like walking into my childhood. The walls were bright blue, which matched the carpet. I smiled a little.
“You know,” I said turning to my lover. “When I was a kid, I spilled a blue raspberry Icee on the carpet and I hoped no one noticed. No one was able to see the spill but when they noticed that there was a sticky spot on the carpet and I blamed my cousin for the mess, and then I ate her dunk-a-roos. I was a mean kid.” I laughed.
“It’s very nice to see you smiling,” David said before he kissed me on the cheek. “Babe, you probably could still find dunk-a-roos in this early 90’s time capsule if you want more,” he said. His voice had that sarcastic humor that I fell in love with.
I made my way over to the bed and sat down, the mattress was way too squeaky. My cousin’s bright pink unicorn bedding made me sneeze. David sat down next to me, his eyes darting around the room.
David laughed. “Oh my gosh, there’s a poster of Jonathan Taylor Thomas next to a picture of Leonardo DiCaprio.”
He was lying on the bed laughing now. He pulled me down onto the bed next to him and started playing with my hair.
“We’ve got work to do,” I said pulling my lover up off the bed. The old box springs and mattress creaked as I got off the bed and sat down beneath it. Out from under the bed I pulled a large box. The cover was faded, but it had two very happy-looking blond children on the cover and the words “Mystery Date” printed on it in colorful letters. My fingers left impressions in the thick layer of dust.
“Let’s play. Maybe you’ll get to go to the drive-in with the hunky football player, babe.” I smiled at David as I opened the box. I opened it to find a metallic pink wrapper that had the word “condom” printed on it. I pulled out a small bag full of green stuff and held it to my nose.
“Babe, I found some Mary Jane, but she appears to be dead.”
My lover simply shrugged. “Didn’t your cousin marry a pastor or something?” he asked.
I laughed. “Yes, well, yes she did. And now she teaches Sunday school.”
The old, eggshell-white, clunky desktop computer wouldn’t turn on.
We left the room. Making my way into the kitchen, the smell of mildew and grime hit and made me vomit in my mouth a little. I swallowed the half-digested Big Macs we got on the way out here.
My aunt would be sick if she could see or, for that matter, smell the kitchen. She used to bake apple pies in here; she made them every Sunday after church. I wished that the smell of apples and spices could fill my nose again.
“Did you bring any cleaner?” David asked as he opened the pantry. “We should probably start cleaning this place up.”
He started moving a huge bucket out of the pantry. A tiny orange kitten came out following David and leaving tiny paw prints in the grime.
“Something like that,” I said half-heartedly.
I picked up the kitten and looked through the cupboards. I found a box of Tang and some cans of condensed soup that had expired before the house became empty.
The stairs felt like we were going to fall through them, but we made our way to the main bedrooms. There was the imprint of my grandmother’s cross in the wall just before we entered her bedroom. The old, gold-colored metal frame of the bed seemed to be falling apart in places.
My grandmother’s bible was on the side table, along with a desk calendar and “Vote for Bill Clinton” bumper sticker. The room still smelled faintly of Chanel No. 5; it made me smile. I sighed, there’s one more room we need to look in.
I made my way down to my aunt’s bedroom. Winnie the Pooh plushies were everywhere; there was even a really big one in the middle of bed. Long discontinued baseball cards covered the surface of her vanity. I took a deep breath and tried to hold back tears again.
I handed David the kitten very gently, trying hard not to injure it just in case there was something wrong that we could not see under its matted fur. I made my way over to her bed. I stepped over pillows and made my way through a pile of orange and blue blankets, and, at the bottom, I found what I had been looking for. It was a picture of my cousin and I. My aunt took us trick-or-treating; I was a bunny, she was a ballerina.
I handed David the picture. “I remember being so mad because one house we stopped at gave us toothbrushes. I was happy again when my aunt told me I could have the pink one.”
I made my way back out to the yard. “Babe, what are you doing?” David shouted as he struggled to keep in step with me.
“Just don’t let the kitten go, okay?” I said. “I want to bring it home with us.”
“Okay, but I still have no idea what you’re doing?!”
I opened the car door, grabbed my yellow Hollister hoodie, and wrapped the kitten in it before tucking into an old Pepsi box.
“Okay, I see you wanted to put the kitten somewhere safe while we clean. I get it,” he said as he grabbed a bottle of hand sanitizer from the glove compartment.
“Hey, babe,” I said. “Could you grab me a cigarette? I have a lighter. I also need your hand sanitizer.” I smiled.
“I know it’s been a long day,” he said handing me a cigarette. I pulled a purple lighter from my pocket.
Before he could stop me, I ran inside and set the living room chairs on fire and shut the door.
Like my grandma said, everything has its purpose, and now the purpose of this place is just to remind us of the time we can’t go back to.
“This place is in my past now, I have to move on,” I said walking down the long abandoned street, his hand in mine.