Attic (Random Boy)
Archived at Pastorale, Bellum Viri
He lived in the attic, although he owned the house, the whole thing,
from the stone cellar to the upper rafters. The rooms below him lay
empty, devoid of furniture, paintings, the things that made a house
anything more than a box. The wood floors gleamed, he made sure of
that. They were probably cleaner than they'd been in a hundred years.
Once a week he would sweep and dust the floors, going from room to room
with his broom and cloth, plugged into his walkman. He'd dance and
sing, clearing the dust and fly droppings, then he'd sweep the ceilings
and climb up the ladder to dust the lights.
The whole house was clean, the fixtures in the kitchen bright and
shiny. He took care of what was his, not minding that he never used it.
It was his, so he cared for it. The drapes, heavy and thick, were
dusted and cleaned, and the windows they shrouded were polished.
Only the attic was real. Books, clothes, pictures, life. It was all up
there, above the empty bedrooms. Windows on either end let in light and
air, and even in the heat of summer and the frigid air of winter it was
home. The rest just held it up.
He loved the way the tree outside scraped on the roof. In the summer it
was a gentle scratch, pushed by breezes that made his attic habitable,
the wind running through from one end to the other, making the coloured
glass sing on their strings. In the winter the branch was a near steady
thump, no leaves to cushion the blows, and snow muting the sound.
Nature was the only real sound in his house, unless he had his walkman
on. There was a wasp nest outside the kitchen door which he figured
he'd have to move at some point and birds in the front yard, nesting
and feeding in the overgrown garden. There was another nest under the
eaves and he'd spent spring watching little birds learn to fly.
He could hear voices sometimes, if the wind was right. People on the
street, or out in their yards. He never paid them much mind, but always
made a point of being polite to his neighbours when he happened to meet
them. They all knew who he was, of course, knew his family, knew the
house. But they didn't know he lived in the attic, didn't know that the
family had stripped the house bare and just left him the money and the
His mind is as quiet as his house; they are well matched.
Sometimes he plays with the echoes, bouncing notes and words around the
parlour like it was a light reflection from his watch, enjoying the
overlap and swirl of sound, no borders even within the walls. Other
times he stands in the middle of the second bedroom and lets his
heartbeat fill the room, bringing more life to the roses on the
Once, he heard the sound of the iron door knocker, from the back
garden. Thumping that made the house vibrate, anger and distress taking
shape in the hollow of his home. It fascinated him, the way the knocker
could tell him what was on the other side, if not who. Polite knocking
of skin and knuckles on the wood from those too intimidated to use the
metal ring, loud bangs from those who abused it.
But the steady one two three of a calm hand was most welcome. Someone
who respected the door, the iron, and the sounds they created together.
Someone to whom he could perhaps grant entry.
There had been times he thanked the stairs. Two flights up to his
attic, and he had the strength for his bike. Two flights down to the
garden, and he had the time to appreciate it, plan where he would sit,
or even if he would. Thirty four stairs between what he'd been given
and what he'd made. Rising above them, being what he wanted, wrapped in
tapestry blankets and surrounded by beams, not buried in the hollows of
a time long gone.
Now, he thanked the stairs for providing restraint. They kept him
distant, beckoned him away from the urge to linger in the hall,
listening to the new sounds. The muted hum of a computer, the soft
sound of bare feet on the wooden floor. He would walk up the stairs and
away from the siren sound of singing, the click of fingers on a
The stairs took him to the attic, where he could lay on the blankets
and look at the shine of coloured glass and imagine Him working, always
quiet, always patient with words that struggled to come. He could
resist, up in the attic, where he faltered in the hall outside the
parlour doors, captured by Him and His sounds.
He wondered if it was starkly apparent to Him that the walk to the
stairs grew longer every day.
He sat quietly in his attic, still as he could be. An entire floor
between them, with nine foot ceilings, and he couldn't hear anything.
That was the way it should be; He had only been permitted to stay
because He was quiet, because He respected the house, loved the wood
and the colours and the garden.
But he wanted to hear Him, sometimes. Wanted to know when He was
moving, when He was writing, when He was cooking. The smells from meals
would carry, yes. And then he would go down and smile and they would
share a drink and something to eat and talk. Conversations didn't so
much wander as they splashed, words overlapping and carving shapes,
making huge mosaics that lingered in his mind.
He loved those nights.
But if He was making sandwiches, or eating something cold, he never
knew. Never knew when it was time to go down. And it was just too hard
to go down and wait. It felt too much like hunting, and he didn't hunt.
He preferred to be hunted.
There were conversations.
In the kitchen, where it was warm and sunny, and on the back deck, when
it was covered in snow and the gardens were all sleeping. Word like
songs, both sad and low, and so sweet and high they were like arias.
Eventually, there was movement within the house, within His heart, and
he found himself leaving his attic.
But before that there were the notes. Simple things, like Have a good
day, or I bought a new rake, don't worry about it. Other things, like
I'm sorry. And one that simply said Yes.
He'd put the notes on his desk, up in the attic, not squirreling them
away. There wasn't any reason to, no one, not even He, ever came up
there, and it wasn't like there was anything to hide.
But when he left the attic? He threw them all away. There wasn't any
need for bits of paper when he had the whispers of His sweet voice.