Best 1000 Words for the Image Contest: J. Rohr: At Home in the Hideout

By: J. Rohr

It would be a mistake to think she’s out of place. The few who know her well always expect to find her here. After all, she obviously isn’t in the room by accident, and lounges in the window with the repose of one at peace. Whatever stiffness there seems, blame it on the dress. Some things are too fancy to relax. ​

Fact is, if people peeked beneath the surface they’d see her reflected in this decrepit room. It isn’t just a part of her past, it’s a part of her. That missing puzzle piece overlooked by many because it seems too gritty to be a part of the picture. ​

As such, in a manner of speaking, she’s come home. Mostly to put that piece in place, and get a look at the whole picture, but also to feel a comfort the world rarely offers anymore. In this familiar ruin peace of mind blooms. ​

So she sits thinking, “We used to tap dance along the blacktop. Asphalt bringing to life the sound of shoes click-clacking a chaotic cacophony. Shoulder mounted stereo set to deafen anyone within a mile, we beat the world back with an aural assault. Floating along in our own little bubble we never realized we were searchers until one night, escaping the rain, our parade entered the ruin. ​

“No one else would ever think of this place as a home. Though once upon a time it must’ve been someone’s palace, those days ended long ago. Water damage along one wall made it seem like the house occasionally cried. Perhaps it knew it’d been abandoned. Consequently, it seemed lonely, inspiring us to linger, coming back whenever we could. ​

“Every room a testament to slow decay, one, in particular, became special. The only spot with windows intact, the Autumn air couldn’t get in enough to freeze us out. Visiting by day sunlight streamed in giving everything a glow. By night, however, shadows slithered through those same panes to hide our wild ways from prying eyes. A length of wallpaper hung off the ceiling like the limp arm of a dejected failure. Dangling above a rocking horse, it kindled jokes about the house wanting to touch it; however, that relic reminder of former inhabitants always remained tragically out of reach. ​

“Lorna used to say, ‘That’s the kind of like metaphor, you put it in a book people will roll their eyes.’ So we made it a point never to move the tiny horse. Never mind eyes rolling to the ceiling. They keep missing the point. ​

“Litter strewn about the room testified to different presences. Mounds of beer cans confessing others used the ruin to hide their fun; scattered newspapers serving as evidence of hobo nests, and broken chunks of wall implying more about each of us than what may have happened thanks to our revealing speculations:​

‘Some angry dude lettin’ off steam busted this place up for real.’​

‘Punks raging hard to a song, mosh pit definitely messed this place up.’​

‘Just picking on a poor, dead horse cuz it can’t hit back.’​

‘I dunno like smashing stuff’s fun.’​

“Camping out in that room every horror story cliché came alive in the candlelight. One could hear the ghosts whispering, the witch’s cackling, that foreboding scrape of an ax dragged down the hall, and of course, the labor pains of Echidna boiling up from the basement below. It was never hard to daydream something hideous happened here. That a marriage collapsed after the baby died, which is why the rocking horse got left behind. Wondering about such things turned out to be one of our favorite distractions. Like did the sour yogurt aroma of that room hint of sick birds in the rafters?​

“We used to escape to that space, a home away from horrible homes. In there, nestled snug in an open, rotting wound, our issues seemed smaller. The melodrama of typical teens sounded especially trivial when spoken aloud in that mausoleum confessional. And the romances that blossomed therein burned bright. The off-white walls promised everything is temporary, so risks became commonplace, caution nowhere in mind. Hints of attraction spit sparks at oily rags — try for a kiss because the ceiling is crumbling, and could fall on us at any moment. ​

“That’s how it started,” she remembers that first kiss as she sits in the window on her wedding day. Her couture dress something from a fairytale she never dreamt — it doesn’t feel right wearing it here. Yet, this is the only place she feels comfortable in it. The old pack grew up, and they’ve all evolved into royalty, though never without a piece of this place in their hearts. ​

That’s why, years later, she can sit in this oracular chamber catching glimpses of the future. The room foretells happy days that will fade just as a house fills with life then empties, and decays. However, in here, dwelling on the negative doesn’t seem wrong it seems pragmatic, particularly, alone like this, there’s no one to offer other thoughts. ​

Then the sun bursts through a cloud, exploding into the room like a flare illuminating one last lesson in the ruins. Though ruin describes it, they never thought of this place as a wreck. One term implies a place, some might say sacred, while the other denotes something so destroyed it possesses no value. Either way, realizing it’s all a matter of perspective, she smiles. Perhaps the future will crumble into a fresh ruin for her to learn from and love. One can only hope.​

Rising to leave, her eyes drink in the room one more time. She’ll be back. That piece of this place, stored in her heart, is also a magnet. It pulls her back to this festering room with its fetid odors she regards as flowery perfume. ​

There’s no door to shut behind her. She can’t help laughing at that. Another bit of symbolism almost guaranteed to get eyes rolling. ​

“Let them roll,” she thinks, “They’re missing the point, assuming they ever saw anything.” ​

Then she’s out, leaving the pleasant mess behind even as she holds it fondly in mind.​
J. Rohr Two Drops of Ink Best 1000 Words for the Image ContestJ. Rohr is a Chicago native with a taste for history, and wandering the city at odd hours. 
He writes the blog in order to deal with the more corrosive aspects of everyday life. 
His Twitter babble can be found @JackBlankHSH.
While Best 1000 Words for the Image Contest is over, we are still looking for moving memoirs that relate to the writer and blogger, an informational how-to that helps writers and blogger improve their writing, increases their social media clout, or poetry that engages our senses. 
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  1. I really enjoyed this, Jay.
    I lived in Natchez, MS for over 20 years, and the city contains a plethora of historic and abandoned homes.
    I have always been a lover of both, but the abandoned ones just seem to beg to have their stories told – and heard.
    As Michelle noted in previous comment, you actually made the home a character in your story – and I’m not sure which I was more interested in – the woman or the abandoned home! Superbly done!

  2. I love how you weave the visual images within the memories. It really makes the room itself a character in the story. I can imagine that group of young people in the room making memories and how that can affect this woman who has returned. This is well written. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Hello J,
    I was hoping someone would pick this image because I just could not imagine why someone would be sitting in such a dump in her wedding dress. Enjoyed reading this. Thank you for sharing.

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