The Old House

The candlestick has been there for years — at the center of our dining table — longer than I can remember. No one touches it, cleans it or polishes it. It is silver and has always been silver. The dust accumulated, hardened its surface, but it still stands untouched. There is noise in my head that I don’t know how to sort it. It’s loud and its booming. I look for the stereo. It lies tucked away in the bookshelf surrounded by old crumbling tapes. I pick it up and dust it out. It was a beauty when I was young. My cousins and I used to fight over it. Then someone would come around, hit us hard and make us promise that we would take turns to play songs. Pinky promise. Music was my escape. Always. I didn’t sing like the rest of them. I didn’t know what taalam or raagam was but I loved listening to music. I couldn’t tell what genre I like, I still can’t. Music always dampened the noise in my head, maybe because it took over the space. It didn’t help much, because when the songs ran out and we were done fighting, the noise would be back. I popped each tape into the stereo and tried playing. But the same scratching noise. Finally one played — Blue. One love. This song made me swirl my hair. I try to swirl, but there is not enough hair. I am scared to touch the things around me, but the candlestick draws me to it. I scrape the dust off it and I see a red stain. I am not sure if that was there the last time I saw it — a deep blood red. But then again, I don’t remember the last time I was here. The noise is growing louder and its deafening. The song isn’t helping and its strange. I start to panic, I can’t breathe. I remember my parents fighting and the candlestick being thrown. I remember the awestruck pale face of my mother as she lay still, beautiful. I keep drifting in and out of consciousness and I’m on the floor with a candlestick in my hand, my fingers bleeding. I cry and I scream but I know I won’t be heard. I vomit and pass out. I wake up to my mother caressing my hair. “It wasn’t your fault” she says. I never went back. I never heard her voice again.