By now, I've lost count. Day xx of quarantine. But even then, I can only imagine what it's like to be outside. People have forgotten I exist. But I see them. Far down below, they crawl the streets like ants who've lost their way. They carry their findings of the day, slung on their shoulders and grasped tightly with callused hands. I can only picture what they're carrying as it's too far for me to make out the objects.
I back away from the window to look around my room. The same baby blue painted walls glare at me like every other day. But I love them. They comfort me, keeping me trapped in their deceiving warmth. Tearing up, I whisper an unspoken gratefulness.
I think I'm ready. I've explored all that I could within these familiar cornflower plasters. They've kept away the danger, saving me a corner where I could sit without leaving my blind spots exposed. But I miss the outside. It's unknown to me now, an unfamiliar mystery I so desperately yearn to know again. So, I open my door to the chills of a vacant common area. The sun shines onto the faded portraits of those I once knew.
Before me, a vacant kitchen, an abandoned dining room, an empty living room. Above it all, the sun's rays shone through the windows onto the faded wooden floor boards, as if suggesting what once was.
I inch through the doorway towards the kitchen where my mother once slaved away. She cooked from morning to night, keeping him full and keeping me fed. Yet, it was her safe haven. Her weapons were at hand, so he knew he couldn't touch her there. At times, I hid there too. I watched her dice, stir, and sweat in the one place where warmth radiated from the walls and ceiling. Once in a while, she would sneak me rock sugars, winking at me knowing I would keep this our little secret. As I run my soft, pale hands along the dusty counter, I glance over the kitchen bar to the dining table. Slivers of images flashed through my mind. The family gathered around the table, chatting with each other. They smiled in the spirit of the gathering, laughed at each other's jokes, and frowned their frowns of concern. My cousin always sat at the side of the table so that half of his face was illuminated by the sun. He was the type of guy who had the funniest stories to tell, but was also the type of guy who couldn't finish his jokes without breaking into uncontrollable laughter. I don't remember the endings to his jokes.
Warmth crept up within me remembering those times. I watched from afar, peaking through the crack of the door, afraid I would ruin the spirit. The pictures they took during these gatherings hung along the dining room walls, faded, yet the whites of their teeth shone patently through their smiles. Glancing from frame to frame, a sly smile danced around my lips. Their presence meant my safety for a while. For when they were here, he desired to impress them. "Make yourself at home!" he would boast. When they ate and laughed, I came out, hiding in the comfort of my mother's shadow. At his urging, I politely greeted each of our guests.
Suddenly, light dissipated. I hear his bellowing laughter in the living room as the nightly news blasted through the TV. He shakes his head at the blaring black box facing his swollen stomach and unshaven scruff. "Morons," he would say as the man in the suit stood in front of rows of cameras and microphones, confidently speaking in gibberish. He chugged from the open bottle.
And just like that, I'm brought back to the dust that settled around me, undisturbed. I am no longer afraid. When he left, my mother cried, begging to take me with them. Like me, he refused. The building was old and nearing its time to be torn down. But this was all I knew. This is where I felt safe. My pain, my agony, my moments of joy, my vestige of hope laid within these walls.
The rays traveling through the south facing balcony window warmed my translucent skin. I moved toward it and grasped the handle of the sliding door. Yanking the door open, a gust of wind lifted the dust away. I step onto the porch. To escape the heat shooting up my legs, I climb up to sit on the railing, balanced and poised. It's impossible to block out the sounds of the trucks making their way towards the building. But for once in a really long time, I took in a deep breath of fresh air. The breeze blew through my unkempt hair and ruffled my shirt.
With the sigh of the wind, I let go of my breath, in relief, content at last.