The life imagined

When I was a child, a girl with a voluminous head of blond hair sat in school at a desk a few rows ahead of mine. She wore plain pink sweaters and trousers and everything she did looked beautiful, because she was beautiful. All the other children crowded her because they wanted to be beautiful too. A wave of pink hues spread across the classroom and hallways, but as we outgrew the corridors the wave receded to make room for dull colors. The family portraits leading up the stairs to her room revealed her hair was naturally brown, matching her eyes. Her parents allowed her to dye it to enhance her beauty and she felt obliged to continue to, fearing what would become of her if everyone in school knew the truth. That humble vulnerability made her even more beautiful.

Somedays when we are out and about on a walk, we are spontaneously guided by Open House signs and enter untrodden territory. We wander the corridors and room to room, noting the height of the ceiling and the detailing of the trim work. We admire the bay windows and windowsills large enough for a tabby, or a bouquet of dried flowers that catch the morning sun, or for the breeze to gently caress a translucent curtain partially drawn open. Our lives wear out the floorboards. In some homes, clothing and sentimental items in bedrooms are curated and displayed to look aesthetically pleasing. In others, everything is scattered as though we intruded while the house is in its most natural state - while the tenants are away and unaware of their uninvited guests. I never touch anything, pacing myself to merely observe and get a sense of the space. The life imagined. In new constructions, homes are devoid of character, with their vacant rooms, spotless walls and shiny appliances, and soft floors that were installed too quickly and eager to sell.

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