The last couple of months, when I’m waiting for sleep at night, I’ve been doing a sort of mind exercise.
It occurred to me, after I wrote a post about a winding dirt road, some time ago, that I have no memory of anything inside the house I grew up in.
So before I fall asleep at night, I close my eyes and try my best to go back to that time.
Mostly what I recall is lying in a bed at night with the windows open. The summer months of my youth. Staring at the outdoors through the tiny squares of a window screen. I can see a few things outside, nebulous shapes that flicker in and out of my memory.
So in turn I’ve tried to place myself outside that screen to peer inside. I envision placing comma-shaped hands up to my eyes to stare into the darkness within.
This morning it occurred to me why it might be that I can’t see inside. The best answer I can come up with anyway. Because, who doesn’t remember something? A couch, a bed, a kitchen table???
Maybe it’s because there were secrets inside that house. So many secrets. And when I’d ask my great-grandmother questions about my parentage, I’d be met with stiff disapproval and silence.
Gradually over the years little tidbits filtered in. This and that. Snatches of overheard conversations. Enough to sort of patch a story together here and there.
Maybe secrets do that. Throw a cover over every surface, hiding what is underneath, so that you can’t see anything but shadows and shapes. Like an empty summer house left vacant for winter, waiting for its occupants to return.
Maybe that’s just the nature of secrets. Of things left unsaid.
They become buried by so much time that what remains of the truth hangs like tiny dust motes in the air. Seen only in brief shafts of sunlight. And then put back in their grave.