You can find part two of this story here.
“So, you’ve got a skillet and a measuring cup. Anything else?” the lady asked me, looking over her little reading glasses at the receipt she was writing.
“Okay, let’s call it $10” she said, smiling.
I smiled too.
He sat down on that old chair with his drink. He looked around the dark room. The outlines of things were all around him and frames hung on the wall. In that thick darkness they were just vague descriptions of some faces that could be recalled from memory. There was a single streak of light coming in from the crack in the drapes. Little speckles of dust floated in the light, making their way back to the carpet again. He took a big slow drink. The dust speckles whipped up and around with the path of his arm. He closed his eyes and breathed in through his nose as the oaky liquid sank into him, and the old damp scent that covered the room hung like a heavy leather cloak drying.
Even though he’d been here as long as he had, the scent of age was slightly transparent. The new paint smell now hid a few feet below the surface. Over the years it had drifted out of the little crack in the window, and slowly sank into the old carpet he laid over the varnished pine. Every time he stepped on that old carpet he could feel the hard wood beneath, and smell that old sour scent rising up, leaving the new paint trailing behind it. When he sat on the chair a plume of dust-speckled smoke being pushed up and around him, consuming his body. He would let himself sink into the chair and be embraced by the scent of use. He could faintly smell the people that sat in it before him. He could smell the rooms that it had been in before this one. And I think he could faintly smell himself. Something about those deep breaths said that he was in there, somewhere.
He sat forward in the chair and reached for the old lamp with the watercolor shade. He pulled the dainty little beaded string. Light burst around the room and brought detail to everything. The warm golden hue bathed the faces on the wall, pressing a white ball of light on the glass of the frames.
Noir shadows, exaggerating every expression of the room, pushed up to the ceiling at fierce gradients. The corners of the room remained dark. From that heavy darkness I watched him take another drink and scan the faces on the wall.
He put his hand on the lamp and tilted it, moving it slightly, turning the shadows at their base. He looked at every face on the wall, allowed every detail to sink in again, and moved on. The light came around to the corner in which I sat. I felt its warmth cut across me. I watched his eyes scan across the photograph next to me. His eyeballs twitched onto every feature. They moved to me. I saw his lids widen from behind his glasses. His hand slid into his coat pocket and pulled out two photographs. He held them up and dropped the light onto them. I fell into darkness. The light lit the photos and reflected back to him. The shadows cut thick black lines across his face. He lifted the light back to me. I saw that a little smile had formed on his tired face.
He stood up and started walking towards me, lifting dust and pungent scent up from the old used carpet. He picked me up off the mantle piece and lay me face down. I felt him unscrew the back of the frame and pull me out. His fingers felt drunk, clumsy, impatient. He took me back to the chair and sat me on his lap. He put down pictures of these two older people. They were new. I hadn’t seen them before. He carefully opened the drawer on the little side table next to the old chair. He took out the picture of that little black and white boy again. He looked at the picture. The corners of the photograph quivered in his hands. A tear formed in the corner of his eye and burst across his lid, before sliding down the contours of his expression.
He placed the little boy down carefully next to me. We looked a little alike. I was a year or two older maybe. We both sat, on a knee each, under the older people. He looked at all of us together. Another tear rolled down his face, caught on the tip of his smile. He threw back the last of the whiskey into his mouth. The rounded edges of the melting ice cubes hit his lips, and slid to the bottom of the glass. He looked to the ceiling and started to weep. We lay on his lap as quiet as tears, together, just transplanted memories that sank like diving bells into the scent that drowned us all.