The room was whitewashed – the fresh coating of plaster smelled eerily familiar. The paint had wiped away any scratches or smudges that had adorned the walls previously. Had they left nothing behind, though, in the house they had spent so many decades living in? The joys and sorrows life had chosen to bring to them while they had resided within these four walls – could it be that they had taken everything when they had gone away? That if they should ever return, this freshly whitewashed room would never recognize them again?
Had I, too, left nothing behind in the house I had just bade adieu to?
As a child, I had loved playing with plaster. It had been fun, back then, because everything about it had seemed to radiate a sense of newness. Echoes of a fresh beginning. Nothing to conceal under the hard white surface, unlike now. Nothing to be afraid of.
I examined my new surroundings, trying, but failing, to forget that untarnished memory. A fragment of my identity had been lost between then and now, and I just had to deal with it. It should not be as hard as I envisioned.
My old home was definitely not a place I was going to visit anytime soon. A few years from now, and the place was going to be reduced to a distant memory, edges dulled by the flow of time. Could it ever really be completely erased, though? Could I ever treat it as if it had never existed? Forget all the recollections that have given shape and added colour to my life?
The gentle swaying of the great oak trees against the autumn breeze. The dry rustle of their leaves as I walked beneath, fingering their rough trunks. Feeling the rain trickle down my skin as I lay on the grass, chin up and eyes shut tight. The purple sunrise from the balcony. The flicker of the candle as it kept the looming shadows at bay.
The dread and loneliness at night when the house was devoid of people. Losing myself in the campus with only an imaginary friend to guide me back through those rustic trails. Feeling the cool night air brush against my cheeks as I looked up at the moon through my window rails, eyes wide with wonder and head propped up between my arms. Distinguishing shimmering shapes in the clouds and weaving them into a fairy tale of my own.
Now the fairy tale was gone, shattered within seconds. A wall of fragile glass that could not have kept off the harsh reality much longer. Imagination could only shelter me so much. Reality appeared to be in a class of its own.
A part of the whitewash had flaked away under my fingers, to reveal a tiny ink curve. Did it, too, belong to the imagination of some other child, who had once stood where I now stand, giving form to the dreams he had once dreamed? Had he realized that he would have to abandon his palette someday?
The whitewash is what comes between both of us and the memories that have made us, molded us into who we are. Memories, however, remain memories as time ripples on – it was I who had to walk forward to embrace the upcoming dawns as bravely as I could.
I tried to convince myself that the action was justified.