(written today and first published here)
Thursday, January 05, 2012
The Dark Damp Corner
It wasn’t always dark, it wasn’t always damp. Or should I have said that the corner was never only dark, it was never only damp. It seemed to go in cycles. It was a top corner of one of the second floor chalet-bungalow bedrooms; near its chimney flue and where the severely sloping ceiling met the outside wall. The cycles comprised periods of not being damp or dark at all. For months on end, and going back in history, for years on end, I suspect. Neither damp nor dark. Then cycles comprising periods of being both damp and dark at once. Never one condition without the other. Darkness and dampness as a tug of war: a host in creative or destructive battle with its parasite, but I was never sure which was which. Darkness or dampness as the cause or effect? How could I tell? I am not a surveyor or professional builder. I was simply sure that you always needed both dampness and darkness for each to exist.
Meanwhile, it was a mystery in other ways, too. There seemed no obvious reason for it. The roof in the corner’s vicinity had been repaired (and eventually the whole roof was replaced as just one repercussion), various other pointing or structural jobs done, chemical treatments given to the wall, even prayers given up to whatever gods controlled dry rot or whatever the condition was called. When in a whimsical mood, I often compared the phenomenon of that corner’s characteristics to those of a real person, someone with moods. Body as well as outer personality and inner mentality.
Someone like Charlie.
Or someone like Mary-Ann.
Both with their own moods and cycles that coincided. A marital pitch-battle that thrived as a battle for its own sake rather than a battle that exacted its climactic defeats or victories. For them, darkness and dampness were called by different names. Only one memory away from a false future.
Charlie and Mary-Ann had lived together in the chalet bungalow for many years. I lived there, too, but they never saw me. I was usually where they were not. Except on the rare occasion when the three of us attended the same room; I would hide behind something in the room, made myself as small as possible, climbing in, for example, behind a book on the bookshelf. Of course, today, with E-books no such hiding-places for me. Not the dampness aura of old books nor the clinging darkness that one imagined littering their fiction plots in the shape of words. Most books had unhappy endings in my experience. Or perhaps that was because I only read books with unhappy endings?
“What’s that noise?” Charlie asked.
They were sitting together in the centrally-heated lounge that stretched from back garden to frontward street. The lounge, being downstairs, was naturally longer than the combined width and length of the two bedrooms, even though one of them was above the stairs-area and the kitchen. Both bedrooms, though, were kept centrally heated, too, in this modern age. I think I was the only one who had got to grips with the logistics of this place where we lived. Its spaces and margins, and its accoutrements or aids of comforting existence that swelled and unswelled with the seasons. Neither Charlie or Mary-Ann gave the impression of ever even thinking about such matters. Mysteries for them were never mysteries. Unless you consider something to be mysterious, it never becomes a mystery.
“It’s the wind,” Mary-Ann replied.
But, upon thinking about it, I am possibly just as unthinking as they are. I never questioned their existence, never thought about how old they must be now, never wondered what I was doing there and why there was a purpose in me being there. Doing and being, different words meaning the same thing perhaps. What and why. What doing? Why being? I knew it was not the wind. I knew it was me they had heard. That was the ‘what’ at least? The ‘why’ remained beyond my reach to know. Beyond, indeed, my reach to be.
I scuttled from the lounge as soundlessly as possible and then up the stairs on all fours, on all my tip-toes. My favourite lurking-hole was in one of the bedrooms beneath the roof. Yes, you guessed it. That corner. That dark damp corner. That damp dark corner. Each room normally has eight corners, half of them ceiling level, the other half floor level. I kept repeating “dark damp corner, damp dark corner” in some form of incantation. Not with words aloud, but from thoughts inside. Thoughts are always silent. Even when you come to speak thoughts, they turn out to be quite different thoughts from the thoughts you thought you were thinking before you spoke them or they are not your thoughts at all!
Perhaps my presence explained everything about that corner. Explained everything that did or didn’t do; was or wouldn’t be. Eventually, I hear the whispering Charlie and Mary-Ann coming upstairs with their light bedtime reading. The days are closing in, growing shorter, during this time, of course. Autumn: the only season I know for certain. For me, mysteriously never-ending. Ever dry-leafing, ever wet-rotting. Very little kindling. Reason unknown.