A Living Room

Lisa Maione

draft June 28 2018

Recognizable, yes. The shapes. The overall texture. The color of the walls, the light coming through the windows across the space facing the backyard, the pale-coral leather sofa worn from years of sitting, the proportion of the room. The magazines, books and papers by the coffee table. To my right, the stairs by the office room. I had scrambled up and down those carpeted steps hundreds of times. Slide across the tile floors. Big squares, a creamy marbled tone. Stringy, swampy, stretchy slime mold. It was clear the water was higher at some point earlier in the week. Tented sheets of a smoldered spearmint, cast over shoes and phone books. It hung casually off the bottoms of the dining table and chairs. Circular patches begin to grow in infinite fractal drawings on the textured walls, striped with yellow-gold-brown tracings from various levels of water. A small stack of unimportant mail sat, undisturbed, on the side of the stair. The living room, all so familiar, sat quietly in a tub of murky, putrid liquid. A tepid soup, some days old, leaving behind parallel lines drawn on the walls. A slow dehydration, a change in horizon. Water sounds comes from a room beyond my sight. A black fly, then another, buzz past my steamed goggles. Tiny bubbles — constellations of five or six at a time — appear and drift, coming up from the wooden floorboards near the electrical outlets. I step on a magazine on the floor, deeply submerged. There were many of these, and even more hand-written notes and newspaper clippings. It’s possible something important is here, in these stacks, visible or not. The squish, under the rubber boots and socks willingly worn on a rather warm September morning. I found myself thinking — judging, seeking value differences, is it possible to tell differences — as I traversed, a creeping pace, a narrow estuary between the sofa and the wall. This space was the only option to get across the room, to the windows facing the yard. Which papers to sacrifice now, versus which ones might I do my best to avoid. At least for this first and new path. Slips of paper. Slick stacks shift with my movements. I knew all the textures. We would sit in this room during the holidays. Sipping tea in Christmas mugs together near a modest tree. These familiar scraps of paper and books and images and newspapers now become the foundation of what will soon be a well-worn trail. The boots I wear leave impressions, like rough tires grating into wet sand. Looking out the front door behind me, a long gradient of blue-to-green speckled plastic rocks between the door jam and the bushes outside. The first anchor point on a maiden voyage for this one-person kayak. It took only a few minutes to glide easily from the norm of a sleepy neighborhood street to a newly-established wildlife preserve. A man-made decision. What is being preserved here? The water keeps everything in tact until I reach down to save it. Move it. Reach for it. Catch it. The attempt to save immediately reveals its inability to survive any longer.