Cedar Walls

Rachel M. Barker

Copyright © 2014 by Rachel M. Barker

Photo of a cabin interior with cedar walls.

He wakes up, still shell-shocked by last night’s conversation.  She has already left for school; it is 7:45 am.  Last night, she told him that she doesn’t like the cedar walls of their basement apartment.  Because they remind her of him, and what happened on the fishing trip when she was ten years old.  It was the same year her brother was killed.  The space in Medford, Massachusetts, was depressing enough.  Always dark, except for the light that occasionally shone through the front door.  But this was the dead of winter, and they were living like modern day vampires.  Dark leaving home, dark coming home.

She was crying last night in bed.  She told him about her trip to the lake house with her friend and her father when she was ten.  She said she might sleep on the couch from now on.  To avoid the feeling the cedar walls conjure up.  She remembers her friend’s father feeling up her leg as she was sleeping in the living area of the lake house.  She remembers waking up, then running to the bedroom where her friend, Erin, was fast asleep.  There was a huge snake painted on the ceiling, and she stared at it for what seemed like hours before she fell asleep.

 “Whatever.” He said.  “Whatever makes you happy?" There is nothing I can do to fix you.”

“I know!” she wailed. “I just needed to tell someone.  I’ve never told anyone about this.”

As he sits on the edge of the bed, scratching his morning stubble(he hasn’t shaved in two days), he wished she hadn’t told him.  He knows it is wrong, but he resents her for making this his burden now.  It’s not as if he’s happy in the basement apartment either.  It is always cold and dark.  When the snow comes in hard, they literally have to shovel themselves out of the door.  And in the winter, when it warms up slightly, their small living area floods at least once a week.

“Things will be better once we get to California”, he assured her last night.  It’s always sunny and warm.”

“That won’t change what happened.”

“Then go see someone, I don’t know what to tell you.  I don’t know what I can do.”

“You know I can’t afford to see anyone.  I will just write about it.”

 “So now I have to carry the guilt,” he thinks, but he does not say it out loud.

He brews his coffee, and prepares for a full day of classes.  He realizes that that her idiosyncrasies, her shyness and her mysteriousness are making him crazy.

 “Funny”, he says to himself quietly.  These were the qualities that attracted him to her in to him in the beginning.  Now he finds himself resenting all of them.

He wishes she would not waste her time majoring in English.  She should be doing something more practical, like majoring in business.  She is dead set on being a writer though.  He can’t discount the fact that she is doing extremely well in her classes, and has even been recommended by the head professor of the English/Literature department to participate in the student tutoring program.  She loves it, and it makes her happy.  She is ecstatic when she returns home from school.  She wants to tell him everything, and show him everything that she wrote

She is proud of herself at the end of the day, and his lack of enthusiasm crushes her.  He can see it in her face.

“She is just not being practical,” he tells himself.  He will talk to her tonight, after dinner.  She is only 22; she will grow out of it

It is 8:45 am.  He dresses and shovels his way out of the front door.  The evening ahead will be unpleasant, at best.  And it will distract him all day.

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