Disappearing Fireplaces

By Shelley Maasch

Someone removed the fireplaces. I kid you not, they’re both gone. Who’d do such a thing? And how did they do it? I mean, they weren’t exactly huge or anything, but they were brick and cement and limestone, inside the house. One on the main floor, one in the basement. Gone. Must have created quite the dust storm.

It was my house, twenty years ago. I’m the one who put in that patio door and refinished the kitchen cabinets. That countertop was my choice. I felt privileged to get it. The house is the same, really. Even the deck with the cool basket weave pattern is still there.

Oh, someone came along and put in new closet doors and finished the bedroom downstairs. But the egress window, we dug that out by hand.

It shocks me, I mean freaks me out someone would get rid of the fireplaces. Who’s the moron that did that? I want to ask the real estate agent. Nobody does that. Nobody in their right mind.

The house looks so much like it did 20 years ago, when we left it. By us, I mean, my ex and me. My first husband. We bought it together, our first house. A sad shape it was in, really, with all that old stain on the wood and horrible yellow linoleum floor and fridge so filthy you didn’t want to put food in it. We stripped and stained and sawed and hammered that house into something sweet. Four bloody years in that house till we called it quits on the relationship and parted ways.

It disturbs me someone could violate that house, strip it of its integrity.

I pull out the old albums, the ones with the pictures of the first day we moved in. I never look at them because my ex’s face is intermixed in those holidays and birthday parties and days of me with long hair. Look, there’s Jake, my first spaniel dog, all shaved and pretty, sitting on the floor next to me with one leg over mine while I’m opening my Christmas present. The furniture looks mismatched and a bit tacky. And further pictures show where I moved things around in the living room, trying to make it like a magazine picture. Or the picture where I’m sewing at the dining room table, the day I saw the deer stop in the back yard through the patio doors we put in.

I turn back to the new pictures on line, the ones the realtor put up. It looks familiar, memories flood my mind. But those fireplaces missing, it’s like someone took an eraser and dragged it across my forehead, soiling it with their incompetence.

How could they do that?

I start flipping through my photo albums at a faster pace. Seems like there should be more photos, you know? The album doesn’t match my memories. So I dig out another book. I’m scanning photos of that brief marriage with all its hopeful holidays and family gatherings and the family dog and I don’t know what to do about them. They are there. They existed. But that time is gone and the husband moved on and I started another family and those pictures are all there too.

Another family with me in it, but the characters have changed. Another house that was stripped and sawed and hammered into something else. The dog is different. The walls familiar like the first house, but different. My favorite things in this new house too. Different furniture, but still mismatched. The similarities are there.

And that family, it disappeared too.

Two houses, two families. Disappeared. Gone. Moved into the past. Neither exists anymore. Not even the dogs.

I close the albums and put them away.

They leave me unsettled. Like the missing fireplaces. Robbed, violated.

Time has separated me from those days. And others have come in between my memories and today. Like, where are my exes? Who are they with now? Do they think about those days we had together and do they miss them?

The thought of starting a new family and failing depresses me.

I don’t want a third album. I can’t stand the thought of time and strangers moving in and tearing out the fireplaces, doing things that don’t make sense, after we move out.

I don’t know what to put in its place.

Maybe everything. Maybe nothing. Maybe this is my life, one in constant motion.

© Copyright by Shelley Maasch, All Rights Reserved

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