Siblingship of Things
In a house prone to weeks of people not speaking to each other, we learn our own languages to talk to the things that listen. For me, the house speaks, the walls have personalities, they bounce back my words, glares, or punches, they dress up at sunset. When it gets quiet enough, I find myself to have many family members. The kitchen walls are an overbearing maternal aunt, the dining room walls are apologetic cousins for all the awkwardness and tense silences and yelling they house when the family comes together for the meals.
In this extended family full of displaced meaning, the one thing that likes to mess with me the most is the staircase. It occupies a space as liminal as I do, both inside and outside the house. It is unique in its design, the most challenging aspect of the floor, and it has the voice that arrests me the most as if we share an exclusive channel equipped for urgency. After some time, it becomes easy to tune out people shouting or talking loudly but the staircase only echoes what is spoken to it, and its quietness adds such volume to the words or sounds that it becomes deafening.
In a house where walls, instead of communication, determine boundaries between people; the staircase joins downstairs to upstairs. If I am hurried, it is the most evident on the staircase. And should either of my parents attempt to come upstairs for a conversation that I would rather not have, the hollow steps echo under their feet. That coupled with my knowledge to recognize the person and their mood based on their footsteps, shout out to me in the silence of the upstairs as I freeze and strain to achieve the silence that the stairs operate in, and give me enough time to brace having my privacy breached.
It is a tool joining me to my parents, two walls to each other, one space to another. I could villainize it because it echoes what is to become an unpleasant memory, it carries people and their messages I would rather avoid. And yet it warns me, when it gets so silent and lonely that I wonder if I will hear anything human anytime soon, the clock makes the exact same sound as the staircase’s message: footsteps.