The Blue Door
Miriam brushes her hand across what once was a Venetian blue door. The paint has long peeled off, revealing patches of bare wood, blunted by too many seasons of rain, snow and draught. Yap…her uncle had left this place in dereliction. Her heart breaks in million little pieces as she sees small versions of herself unfold before her eyes: Miriam fighting with a turkey, not much taller than she was; Miriam learning to bake bread under grandma’s supervision; Miriam swinging under the grapevine vault… She reaches her arms to caress the visions. It all seems so recent, yet so long ago.
She took her first steps through this very same entrance to the old adobe house. When other children were learning how to cross the road at the green light, she was learning how to feed the cows and harvest the wheat with a sickle.
Miriam turns around and gazes at the outstretched yard. It was once filled with children’s laughter, green grass, chickens and the sweet sound of munching cows coming from the stables. The black grapes vine vault has long dried up. There’s no cigarette smoke coming from the back yard, where she used to run for a quick smoke as a teenager.
Her grandma was a saint who taught her how to pray and grow flowers. Her uncle was a good man, turned alcoholic when his wife left him. However, she felt loved and secure when growing up here.
She gazes up to take in the view. From her grandma’s porch she can see the entire village nestled in the scoop of the hilly setting. Somewhere among these hills, back in a neighbour’s garden, Miriam found out what grown-ups do in the bedroom at an age when she didn’t even know what that was called. She was about 5. The youngest of the group, and the first one to fall victim to her peers.
“You’re too chicken to have sex.” the older ones were saying.
She had no idea what sex meant. But she was a brave girl.
When it was all over, she pulled her skirt up and ran back home. And she forgot all until she turned 12. Then the memory hit her with the violence of a speed train, leaving her unworthy of God’s forgiveness. She saw it all again and again, in sickening slow motion: the faces, the snippets of conversation, the grinning teeth, the red sun setting behind the hills, and finally her grandma’s voice calling her from a distance.
How many times she wished she could turn back the clock and stay home that Sunday? How many times she wished she would have just pulled away and run? How many times she cringed and wished she’d die when remembering his hands touch her?
Finally after all these years, she met them at the funeral today. She floated through the anodyne conversations about work, families and children. She looked into their eyes and wondered if they still remembered. He wasn’t there. He was in prison for killing his girlfriend out of jealousy. He was studying to become a priest when it happened.
Miriam felt relief and finally started to cry. They all thought it was for her uncle.
She takes one more look at the door, picks up the hammer and nails the door shot. Her mind is finally at peace.
(Story starting from the expression “She nailed the door shut”)