If I had my way, I’d have a four-story house, a four-story house with a view.
The walk-up attic is light, bright, with balconies under each end, and French doors swung wide for the sake of the breeze. Skylights let in a world of sunshine. The walls are butter yellow, and the furnishings patio style, with comfortable lounge chairs, glass tables, tall lemonades, fresh daisies. This is where I sit when I want the light to soak into my soul. Music plays from hidden speakers, soothing instrumentals and the sound of water. I am alone, or with one other. I breathe in the fair air and the happiness.
The floor below, what I call my upstairs, is a cozy place, with white backgrounds and countless precious belongings. Here I keep everything I treasure: little trinkets from my children, mementos from long ago, strange stones I find on my walks, plant snippets I am trying to root. Above my sink is a line of jars, behind my bed are rows of pretty quilts, on all my walls are shelves and seashells and vases of new-blown flowers shedding petals, with photographs everywhere of all the faces I’ve loved. I have chests full of old diaries, packets of sweet letters, wordless figurines, travel keepsakes, the work of artists I know in person. We sing a lot here. Into this space I welcome the people I like best, and we sit and chat with cups of tea (china from my grandmother, pottery from my friend), and soups from-scratch and tasty treats (concocted from old recipes in my cluttery, beloved, harum-scarum kitchen).
Below is my downstairs, a cool, straight, modern flat with gray walls and immaculate furnishings. Dim lighting sets an atmosphere of regality, elegance. The couches are pristine, the floors always clean and dark, with luxurious fur rugs in the centers of the rooms. The art is aloof and compelling: hidden figures and shapes, hints of nature and architecture. It is very still here, polished, cohesive. I play jazz music, or a cappella choral, savoring the clear, textured, complex delight of the perfect tones, and the way the dark and the light play off each other. I welcome people into this space. They find it beautiful. I serve hors d’oeuvres, grilled meats and vegetables, glorious multilayered desserts. We have fascinating, intellectual, stimulating conversations, our humor and our insights overlaying themselves in joy, like the layers of the melting trifle. Sometimes we are silent.
Down another flight of stairs is a basement, very dark. There is a single French door opening onto a brick-laid patio and backyard, but most of the time I keep the panes covered with heavy floor-length drapes. I never enter from that door. I only descend to this place, where everything is deep and unmoving. I am utterly alone. The music is the stillness, or percussion when silence is no longer lyrical. I do not know or care what anything is made of. I do not eat or drink, though at times I sleep for many hours. Here I come to let the blackness take me, when it breaks through the breastwork and drives holes into the universe. The walls absorb despair and grief, and tell no tales. Nothing is asked of me: nothing required but to remember, no one to see.
When I am spent, I climb three stairways through nuance and the love of many people to sit and breathe beneath a skylight.
Where do you live?