In this night as the storms rage above and below and I climb the boxes and then the shelf in the closet and slip through the hatch into the attic, my own passage through the wardrobe I find myself believing, and push the blankets and pillow I have dragged up as far into the eaves as I can fit – I could not have been more than seven and so I needed very, very little space – then I know that the fear from downstairs might begin to soften.
Wrapped in this nest I absorb the rhythm of the wind-driven rain on slate roof shingles so ancient they have been thinned visibly by centuries of Atlantic precipitation. The air is sharp and cold but inside the blankets my body warms and relaxes. In the full-dark I fumble for my secret box, a tin that once held chocolates brought by a cousin from London but now holds votives secreted from the cathedral, matches from the pub, and all of the postcards received from cousin Michael in America. With blind dexterity born of too much experience I set out the candles, and strike the fire.
The trinity of flames create more shadow than light but I hold the postcards. There is New York, and the dome of the Capitol in Washington, and a fold-out set from Cape Kennedy, a boat on the Mississippi by New Orleans, even the Astrodome. But the one I always hold is just from a hotel in a place called "Arizona." The building is so new. Palm trees stand in front. The cars are like spaceships to a lad who knows no one who even owns one of the tiny boring cars people have here. And the sky. Oh the sky. It is bigger than any I have seen and a kind of blue I have never imagined.
That postcard is in my hand as I fall asleep. It is still clutched there when the first ray of dawn cuts under deep gray clouds and throws itself through the dusty attic window and for just one moment makes my world absolutely my own.
copyright 2006 by Ira Socol
image from James Lileks amazing Motel Postcard website