They told me of the deepest, darkest secret this room has kept within walls for years. Rumours have it that a man lived in the room who, when he would be at home, clutched a beating heart.
Nobody knew who owned it until a young lady—they carefully whispered—told them that it belonged to a maiden, of the same age as the man, who loved him deeply.
The people then reacted differently. Some were disgusted while others laughed. A few pondered on whether it was possible that the lad would kill her for various reasons.
And then she spoke, they revealed to me. She spoke so wittily that everyone was hushed, dumbfounded with what she said.
“Would you like to know, dear, what the girl said?” they asked me.
That she gave her heart “wholeheartedly” to him, and he accepted it only to find out that he, too, was deeply in love with her,
The old men and women pitied the loss—if not despised the act—of the lad. And then, after a long pause, they added, “’The most tragic of all tragedies.’” One hushed.
Everyone looked at the direction of the speaker, except for the young lady who didn’t move, except for her lips that angled into a smiled.
They said it was an old man, gruff and haggard, who spoke those words.
Then the old man, aged and weak, stood up and walked limply towards the young lady.
Everyone watched, unmoved and unnerved.
“It has been a long time…” he whispered and halted from walking. He was less than a meter away from her. The lady, still smiling, looked down, “Ah, you still have it, and it has been a long time,” he added and smiled.
And then she danced—
“Well, she did not, really—” they replied to me. It was just as how the witnesses described the way she moved. She was like dancing when she moved.
“Gracely? It’s that word,” said the butcher. And I told him it was gracefully. He said yes, that was he meant—gracely, and I sighed.
And they went on telling me—
She gracely (gracefully—I corrected him in my head)danced as she turned to him. And she spoke, “And you do, too,” and raised her left hand.
The man raised his right hand. In it was something that looked like a rugged stress ball. They both laughed. Then the old man limply rushed to her and wrapped the lady in his dirty arms and kissed her soft lips with his flaky lips. Yes, they confirmed to me, they kissed. In front of everyone. Longing for each other lingered in that moment. And the next thing they knew, the old man lay on the street, lifeless, and in his chest, one part was never found again.
I stood there in front of everyone as they wait for me to say something. Funny how sometimes people say too much when you only ask for a simple thing like, “Is this room vacant and can be rented?” You start to hear information that may not really matter at all once you decide to make it as such—but in my case, I decided on the other thing: It does and will matter. You get lots and lots of stories and rumours and hearsays and pieces of advice that could form a gigantic puzzle but never an answer to your inquiry. While at some point, when you ask for something specific and detailed and urgent, you just get a ‘yes,’ ‘no,’ or ‘go away’ which leaves you hanging.
Their stares started to feel heavy on me, so I looked around and walked towards the window, “How much?” I said.
“You are currently standing on the exact same place where she was last seen alive,” the butcher replied.
Here we go again.
“Cool,” I said and walked towards them and stopped at the middle of the room. “I’m loving this more.”
“And now, you are on the same spot where she was seen with..her chest…” spoke the landlady, her eyes reflected a mixture of bewilderment, horror, and relief. Although the last seemed irrelevant, I understood why she felt it.
“Great,” I said and looked down on the floor.
Are those blood stains?
“How ‘bout I’ll buy this, name your price.” I added.
“Young miss, it seems you’re in such a haste to decide,” the landlord spoke at last, but nervously. “The other rooms are more furnished and spacious—”
“I like it as it is,” I cut him off. He swallowed the other words he was about to say. “How much?”
“Dear, did you not listen to our stories?” said the clerk who was an old lady.
“Maybe we should tell her about it again but in a simpler way,” added the gardener who was the clerk’s older brother.
“No more storytelling, thank you. Storytelling won’t help sending me off to sleep,” I said to them, “And much more, the story won’t send me off this room,” I said firmly.
The five of them—old and wrinkled in their own ages and ways—looked at each other with terror and disbelief in their eyes. No words came out from any of them, I felt impatient.
“Here. All I got is 35 thousand. You can have the 30, and this room is mine,” I said.
I walked around the room, leaving my bag and coat sprawled on the floor. The dilapidated wallpaper revealed that the room was blood red. The door still had its original white paint that looked grey because of age and dirt. Nothing was in the room except for the chandelier on the ceiling, another white door leading to the wash room and closet, and a black-painted writing desk with pull-up cover—that creaked when opened—a chair and two big drawers on the left leg and two small drawers on each side on top of the desk.
Later. Open them later. My mind instructed me as I placed my hand on the drawer on the left leg to open it.
“Leave me alone now, please.” I sighed. The five old people already left the room—leaving me with the room’s papers and barely an amount from what I offered them for it—but I could still hear their whispers and disturbed strides at the end of the hallway. They said they were glad to get rid of the lift, but they weren’t pleased with how they did. They thought of demolishing it—which I think was the rudest and stupidest idea—but got scared. They thought of a million things to do with the room, but they all ended up with getting scared.
Funny how people see themselves doing lots of stuff because they want to or need to or feel like doing them but end up being scared. Yet, they never see the fact that the less they do things, the more they’re missing out and that is scarier in the end (in this case though, I’m glad they did the former). I told them that I would be fine, and they would see me more often, as I would intend to let them know I’m okay and nothing bad would happen to me. I thought we’re settled when they sealed the door behind them.
The moon shone so bright.
It was more than enough for me to see the words scribbled on an old paper I was holding.
I’m on page one, the other pages laid on the table. They smelled like old wood, damp and almost rotten but still readable despite the dark red stains the paper obtained, mixed with the black ink.
His documents. Her blood. My parents.
This is going to be a long night.