Tigers and Old Furniture
It was too hot to sleep in there. The fan ticked along lightly, barely giving any relief to the poor souls beneath it. The air hung still and stiff, wringing out sweat from even the most lightly dressed. Light shone through the cracks in the curtains, with the passing trucks and cars painting feverish vistas on the walls.
Still, his cousins snored away, sweaty foreheads and all. He tossed and turned to no avail, and sat up in dejection: he wasn’t going to sleep that night. Caring not for the heavy sleepers, he bumped and felt his way out of the room and up the old stairs to the roof. The old, rusty excuse of a door creaked along as the latch was pulled, and opened to the starless expanse of night. As he settled against the railing, he thought of where he was, and where he used to be.
He had been born a couple blocks over from where he now sat, in a snug little hospital where his grandmother was a nurse. His mother had wanted the birth to take place in her hometown, as had all his cousins’.
He could see himself running around as a child of eight, away on vacation at Grandma’s house, getting into spats one moment and making up the next. The courtyard bustling with the laughs and cries of children with nothing on their minds. It lay quiet now, with none of the colourful toys that scattered its granite floor before.
He looked on to the property gate, and the plastic chairs stacked up nearby. It was only so many years ago that he had to climb up those chairs to even peek over the great gate. It now lay a full foot beneath his eyeline.
The storeroom came into view. Hushed warnings of a hungry tiger inside, who devoured all who dared to enter. He remembered building up the courage to venture inside for years, and when he finally did, the disappointment could scarcely have been greater. It turned out to be a dingy little place to put old worn-out clothes and broken-down sewing machines in. All a ploy to keep him and his nosy cousins from hurting themselves falling over old furniture.
His thoughts then took him to the shady plot nearby, whose old brick walls hid from them the occupants and their lives. For years it was shrouded in mystery, home only to dangerous monkeys and scary things of the night: it now revealed itself as a simple family’s ancestral land fighting against being incorporated.
Everything that was huge before now seemed so small, and everything mysterious now mundane. The naivety of boyhood had given way to the realisms of adult life, and it seemed to him as if all magic were lost. The house seemed smaller but emptier, a void that could not be filled by people or things. Even in its emptiness did it manage to rub shoulders with him, reminding him of what was. Reminding him of his grandparents, they who had been old his entire life, now seeming older each year. Wrapping themselves up tighter with each passing winter, their ailments more pronounced.
He sat alone. Only he was a stranger on the roof then, of an unfamiliar house, in an unknown town.