Alex pushes the door open wide and steps into the darkness. He lifts his hand and searches for the wall, shuddering at first contact at its coolness. He gingerly moves his hand up-and-down, side-to-side, until he comes across a light switch. He flips the switch upward and squints at the sudden brightness, blinking magnificently. He turns and closes the door, then kicks off his shoes.
The crisp air sends a shiver down his spine as he makes his way deeper into the house, turning on more lights. He coughs a couple of times as the stench of rotten apples and spoilt milk invade his prominent nostrils. In the kitchen, he opens the window above the sink, his attention quickly shifting to the pile of mildewy pots and plates caked with bits of food. He tries not to breathe.
Alex withdraws to the living room and stands there, his arms folded, embalmed by the disquieting silence that strikes a dissonant discord of a past long forgotten. His round golden brown eyes rove the room and, taking in the scene around him, draws in several deep breaths. The framed eight-by-ten photographs of him and his brother Charles, taken the day of their respective graduations from university, that dominate the mantelpiece like bookends. The frayed royal blue wool upholstered wing chair that sits in the corner next to the brown brick soot-stained fireplace, and where he remembers his mother retreating each night to read her large print Bible. The dark cherry wood coffee table cluttered with unopened mail, receipts, and worn copies of Christian Reader and The Daily News, the local paper. His last trip ‘home’ was two years ago for his father’s funeral. Now his mother is dead. Oddly enough, he doesn’t feel sad. Really, he doesn’t feel much of anything. Shouldn’t that worry him?
He’s not sure what any of it means, to be back in this house. The place where he was born. The place that summons him whenever death calls. The place that cannot claim him. What could it possibly mean when the simple truth is this: he’s been running so long. Running from the man he never became. Running from the man he never wanted to be. Running from the place where he was born.
Alex sits down on the brown leather sofa, exhausted and surprised by the tears banking in his eyes. “It’s a house,” he mumbles at the listless walls, “not home. And I don’t live here anymore.”