The Front Room

marblehead houseThere are two windows in the small room. The front window, which faces the street, and the side window, which faces the sea.

The pink and gold flowers fade and droop from the peeling wallpaper, once chosen with care by the young woman who lived here. The smell from the old wooden floorboards saturates the large wool area rug which is now worn through in the middle. The sofa and matching arm chairs face each other from across the room. The gold velvet upholstery feels like silk, its nap having disappeared many years ago, rubbed clean from the five children who grew up in the house. A round wooden table with a drawer separates the two armchairs. Wooden bookcases, stuffed with hardcover books written in the original Latin and Greek, fill two corners of the room. These books belonged to the young man who lived here, a teacher. Floor-length green and white striped drapes are parted to reveal sun-rotted sheers on the front window, the side window is bare.

The side window, which faces the sea, opens onto the side of another house, down the hill a bit. But above that house and the other houses down the hill, over the trees and chimneys, is the Harbor. The salt water air enters the house through the side window. No chair or table or other piece of furniture was ever placed under this window so that someone could stand before it, taste the salty air, listen for the foghorns and gaze out at the unseen sea.

The front window, which faces the street, opens onto the sidewalk. Passers-by might easily peek inside the house, their view obstructed only by the tattered sheers. The armchairs, separated by the round table, are placed on either side of the front window, facing the room. When the couple was young, they would sit, he reading, she crocheting, occasionally looking up at their pretty room, oblivious to outside world, literally at their doorstep.

In the drawer of the round table, under the front window, is a pair of the man’s eyeglasses. They were placed in the drawer when the middle-aged man was sent to the mental institution, never to return to the family. There are scratches on the floorboards under the woman’s arm chair. These were made when the middle-aged woman dragged her chair around, pushed the sheers aside and opened the front window each day. She filled the table top with candies and, to support her family, sold them to children on their way home from school as they passed by the house. At the end of each day, she left her post and stood before the side window to gaze out at the unseen sea.

Today, a casket on stretchers lies under the side window, which faces the sea. The old woman’s head rests on the satin pillow as the salty air blows by.

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