Home – The Galaxy Above the Stairs

March 31st, 2008

The wall on the right side of the stairs has three distinct parts. For the first five stairs, there is no wall, just a banister that separates the stairs from the rest of the front wall. One can stick one’s head through the bars that connect the stairs to the handrail, turn one’s head to the side so as to become “stuck” and scream for help, though of course there is an age limit on such amusement. After the first five stairs, the wall starts. The bottom part is drywall, and the top part, which corresponds with where the second story begins, is smooth yet bumpy plaster. At stair eight there’s a big nail in the drywall; it’s just underneath where the plaster part of the wall starts, and the plaster wall comes out a few inches further than the drywall. It would be hard to catch anything on the giant nail, sheltered as it is by the plaster overhang, but it scares me. I slink past every time.

The ceiling above the mid-part of the stairs is like its own universe. It’s wide open up there – huge, high and cavernous. There’s easily enough space for another room, and the space already has three walls and a ceiling – all that’s missing is one more wall and a floor. It’s torturous to consider; an entire new room, unused, vacant, yet totally inaccessible. Because the builders of the house apparently wanted to include a vast amount of empty space, and frankly, it’s hard to complain too much. One’s thoughts, dense and hovering about one’s head in the rest of the house, suddenly soar to new heights on the middle part of the stairs. Of course, they’re packed back down by the normal-height ceilings that encroach at the top and bottom, but there in the middle… there’s no limit.

The space houses nothing but air, shadows, and galactic cobwebs that stretch from one corner to another. In any other house they’d be invisible, but we live in a wood-burning house so all the cobwebs collect micro-fine specks of soot and turn black. The effect is that spiders, left undisturbed for a hundred and fifty years, have spun a web big enough to trap a child, should a child find a way to access that space. And they must certainly trap some of the thoughts that float up to the sky, unhindered.

One time we fastened two brooms end to end and managed to stick the bristles up into the galaxy above the stairs, clearing out the cobwebs. It looked cold and empty afterwards; the lines too sharp, the empty space too empty, wasted. I was glad when the cobwebs grew back.

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