When does a pen bring more value to someone than being just a way of communication? Sometimes significance lies in insignificant things. Writers for this blog series have chosen to write about objects that seem insignificant, but to them, hold great value. At the end of this blog series we will be creating a mosaic piece of all the images the writers provide. Thereby creating significance out of insignificant things.
By Rachel Casel
I fill a bucket with water and find the vinegar under your sink. The cold hard scent subdues me as I make my way towards the back of the house. The plastic handle on the pail rubs against the ring on my finger; a pledge of friendship which I intended to give to you. I glance down at the tarnished piece of silver on my hand and remember the way I stood earlier this morning. I waited outside the clinic, turning the metal band over and around in my palm, wondering whether or not I would choose to see you. I wish I could pretend I was altogether selfless, but the truth is I lacked the courage to go inside and look into your eyes. I know the answers to my prayers are in your eyes because that’s how I understand you best. I’m not ready for you to tell me.
So, I came to your house, instead. I put the bucket on the floor and I watch the once dry rag sink to the bottom with quiet poise. The substance is cold and the weight of it seems unusually heavy in my fist. I realize my task of cleaning is the only thing keeping me steady. I slowly shift my body and get on my knees to scrub the floor. Vinegar clings tightly to the fibers in my jeans and into the pores of my skin. I’m trying to be strong for your brother and the rest of your family, but I’m just a girl. I don’t speak as though I were not enough, but as a woman who knows I’m being unfair because you’re just a girl. You are a ten-year-old girl lying on a hospital bed in Rosarito, Mexico. Somehow, I know, you’re the one being strong for all of us.
I walk into the kitchen and remember a sweeter evening from only a month ago when I watched you singing next to me on the night of your brother’s birthday. I remember resting my hands on your shoulders as I whispered, “I love you.” Today, I love you just the same, but I didn’t take the time to tell you. It seems vinegar is all I can manage. I can taste it in the air, bitter sweet, like the words that never left my mouth. I bend down once more and start to push against the linoleum as though I were trying to move the house itself. I know I’m not strong enough but it doesn’t matter. The discoloration in the floor stares back at me with contempt and I wonder whether I deserve it or not. Vinegar can’t take the stain out of this and it won’t wash me clean from today. I start to cry like the inferior dogs on your street because I can’t make sense of anything right now. Still, I breathe deep and reach further into the darker corners of your home. With vinegar, I clear the neglected spaces where the dust inhabits and secretly hide my desperation in its place. They’ll never find it there.
Without warning, Mariachi tunes stream through the front windows. I welcome the interruption and turn my attention elsewhere. Outside, I notice the sun has set. My frantic thoughts gradually lessen, together with the temperature. Admittedly, my energy levels are low. I know I should rest, but I won’t. I’m here alone, standing in the center of the cement slab which serves as your yard. Lines of laundry, held by old wooden pins, hang diagonally above my head. Beyond the garments, I can see the stars glittering like grains of sand in the tide and the light from the street lamp illuminates the corner of the square where your modest washing machine stands proud. I top it off with water from the hose before scrubbing another load by hand. The moderate shade of fabric softener melds with the water like a thin layer of cloud in the sky and, for a second, I think I could almost forget about the effects of vinegar, if it weren’t for you.
Of course, I’ll never forget you.