House Warming

Image of Long Story Short Award - Fall 2020
Image of Short Fiction
“We are all just walking each other home.” - Ram Dass

“In all that I am, I am art first.” This was my opening line as I shamelessly flirted with you over drinks that night. You had asked me what my story was, perhaps expecting my name first, but you moved in closer as you listened, testing my answer, waiting for the falter. I let out a breathy laugh as your eyes urged me to explain. Speaking honestly, I hadn’t expected you to reach my end. I kept my tone light as my answer hung heavy in the space between us. “At the root of this life I’m growing out of, if you dug me out, bottom up, art would be the seed.” I continued slowly as you kept your eyes on mine, refusing to waiver. “But if you followed me home, took a good look at the place that built me, you wouldn’t know from where you stood on my front stoop. You wouldn’t know me at all,” I taunted, taking your steady stare as an invitation as I dared you to find out. “Follow me home anyway,” I offered, the shrug sliding slick from my voice, “I don’t make promises, but I mean it when I say, once you’re in, you’ll want to stay.”

You took mine in your timid hand as you found our way to your car. We rolled up to the curb and felt the liquid beats dripping onto the street before you even knew which house was mine. You settled on the one filled with music, stuffed with lyrics and limericks in my heart’s overflowing nature. If you had only walked me home, you would’ve left me on the doorstep that buzzes with the cadence of a record story, forgoing the melodic monotony of a mundane life for something that spins. You remember thinking, you really don’t know me that well, but you followed me to the door, anyway.

Notes floated out behind me, sizzling as they touched the fresh night air, as my mother ushered me in. You came in too, because that’s who we were, that’s just what this moment was, as you trailed at my heels, a new chorus washing over our simmering nerves. You took a deep, but soft breath as you entered, inhaling the way the walls thumped along in your ears with your heart as Richie and Chesney welcomed you in. My mother swept me into her arms as our voices turned to throaty, off key belts, melting into each other like honey into tea, like butter into cinnamon, like you into me. Our chaotically clumsy kitchen karaoke serenaded you to stay, as we swayed against each other in the shadow of the stove light. You stood in the doorway looking sheepish as a faint flush peppered its way across your cheeks (whether bashful or wine drunk, we may never know), as patterns danced aglow on the ceiling above us. This time, I extended my hand to you, wordlessly asking you to join. There was no falter, then or now, as you stepped into our swaying party of two.

As you inched your way into the reverberating room, you soaked up the atmosphere. Jones and Redding and love itself filled the room, dancing their way through the cracked windows and seeping out onto the street from beneath the weather stripped door. You noted the way Confidential was seemingly stamped across my front walk, and you thought about how I was right, too. You would never tell me yourself, but you understood what I meant now, music was all you got from the street view. But in the kitchen, beneath the dining lights as we slipped between songs, and you found yourself in my arms and my heart in your grip, it didn’t matter at all.

We held each other closer as one album rolled to the next. A pile of poems propping up my baby picture on the mantle looked on as you leaned forward into my neck, laughing under your breath at the way I know all the words, yet still never get them right. I laughed, too, as you bowed your head to meet mine, both of us ignoring the way the music slowed, as “Landslide” sent me sliding into you. There was a soft fluttering in the room, cocooning us as one and pressing your soft chest to mine, as we flocked together like a moth to the flame. You were the flame, I was the flame, and we both had wings. I breathed in your tobacco sheets scent as you swallowed my warm vanilla sugar. I continued to murmur incorrectly along to Fleetwood, waiting for the flutter to fall back, hoping this moment would last the length of the song. The flutter persisted. We swayed, still.

We welcomed in the new light as we danced over the line of where yesterday met today, and where yours met mine. At some point, my mother showed herself to bed, but not before pressing a kiss to my cheek and one to your temple. She hung her knowing gaze on our flammable figures, a soft smile on her face as she turned the corner. We barely noticed. We twirled, circling the kitchen again and again, before we found ourselves unraveling to the floor, backs against cabinets. Our dancing stilled if only to fall in pace with the way the world turns and hums, spinning with our records. We spoke quietly, whispering favorite lyrics and trading song recommendations, lips falling gently on hushed ears. Careful not to wake the sun quite so soon, we laid there together on the tile floor, my fingers giving our feet a break as they twirled instead, twisting your sweet curls in my lap. There, we stayed, stirring only to press play.

As our last record whined to a close, a crooning Etta James (“At Last” she sang), followed our hearts to the door. Your angel wings glistened in the porch light as my twirling fingers flicked it off. I knew I could find you in the dark. The shadow swallowed us whole, but you would light the way home. I leaned against the door jam and into you, your eyes still flickered with life, and maybe even love, resting on mine (all night, they never left). As we lingered in the entryway, waiting for the last breathing beat, I remember thinking, I have come this far only to remember that I am no musician. My heart belongs to stanza format, and I much prefer being wrapped in verse to being created by it. I am no musician, I thought, but I was in love with one once. It felt everything, and nothing, like this.

My head dipped forward to press a good night, good morning, kiss into the corner of your mouth as you draped your coat around my feathered shoulders. “Something to come back for,” you said shyly, before returning to the street. A last thought, I spun on my heel, following my kiss home with a last piece of truth, but you were already washed down the night’s throat, already gone. I told the street instead, giving it something to stick around for, too. “I was in love with a musician once,” I admitted, “but I like how we dance better, anyway.” I left my line there on the pavement and let the door shut behind me.

In the morning, my mother tiptoed into my room, as the light came softly treading in, a walk of shame after a long day’s night. She woke up this morning next to the love of her life, and I woke up thinking of you. She left a whispered “good morning sunshine” into my hair and the windows cracked before she snuck back out. The new day was already here, and the street was already waiting for a song.
As I rubbed the sleep from my face, my thought was simple and promising, as my eyes opened to a new moment, resting on a passed one. My gaze fell on the patterned shadows and symphonic memories still dancing, swaying, twirling on my ceiling. I rolled over, my feet finding the same cool tile, still spinning from the night before. I hummed softly as the thought remained, forgetting to fumble the words to “Dreams”. “Next time,” my voice pulsed, “I promise, I’ll walk you home.”