Department of English

Spring 2007 Edition

Unfeeling Walls

Anna-Lee Smith
Expressive 2010 1st Place
Professor: Dr. Robin Calland

I run my fingers along the plain, white walls occasionally broken by the introduction of a door that surrounds my ten-year-old frame. The connecting halls that once seemed a labyrinth are only a matter of remembered and repeated lefts and rights. I know where I am going, I know my destination, and I will get there. I turn the fingerprint-smudged silver handle down and push the ten-ton door with all my body weight when suddenly the load comes easier as Sandra, my social worker, pushes it with a single palm and I stumble into the room. She has done this before. In front of me are the inviting blue and white, flower speckled, pull-you-in-deep sofas that have yet again found a new resting place on their journey around the room. The toys that have been played with only minutes before are organized, upright, in their correct places, displaying smiles, primary colors, and challenges just waiting for the next child, waiting for me. And on the side wall the single window makes its appearance. “The Black Mirror,” I call it.  It isn’t a window into the outside world, but a window into mine. 

I wonder why such a cold place has become a sanctuary for me; no feeling is attached to this room, hardly any emotion found within these four walls. The only form of expression is found on my favorite toy Raggedy Ann and her embroidered smile. She is the only doll I can find within the room with eyes intact, her original hair cut, and only a few stains upon her ensemble. Her soft and fluffy body easily forms to fit in my arms and gives love without complaint. She doesn’t do much, unlike the remote control car that only works if the batteries are being held in place, the remote is upside down, and the antenna of the remote is touching the antenna on the car. How I came upon this solution I will never know. This car coincidently has become my brother’s favorite toy; Ms. Ann has become mine. 

At this point, it is only me and my social worker. She is tall and thin, but far from graceful. Her beautiful eyes and perfectly groomed hair accompanied by her professional aura would make anyone predict she could glide across the room, but she doesn’t. She stomps. She is lanky. I like her anyway. She has always been distant, and although I know otherwise, I like to think that I am her only case and worrying about me keeps her awake at night; my therapist says that’s me trying to compensate for the attention I missed growing up, but I know my imaginations are just because I have a selfish nature. No one has ever been afraid to tell me about my nature before, so I’ve learned to accept it.

It feels like an eternity before she enters. Like the time will never pass. She doesn’t know; she doesn’t know he’s not coming; my mother doesn’t know my brother is not coming.  I am angry with him. He is the selfish one, I think; he is only thinking of himself, he doesn’t know what this will do to her. He has given up, and I won’t. I don’t want her to walk in; I don’t want her to realize that her only son has given up on her along with everyone else. I don’t want her to realize that her ten-year-old daughter is the only one who has faith in her. I don’t.

She walks in. She sees me and doesn’t act any different. I am engulfed by her frail arms that have always held me. Sometimes it seems like her voice even takes on a personality like the loving embrace she offers when I talk to her on the phone, twice a week, Tuesday and Thursday 7:00 pm - 8:00 pm. 

I can tell she is trying to be strong. She knows; she has been informed. She gently takes my Raggedy Ann and begins cradling it in her arms like a baby; she tells me that I am a great mother, but she’s the grandma and she can hold little Ann whenever she wants. I look into her eyes that are looking into the stitched eyes of my doll. I look at her mouth as she pretends to make faces at the “baby.” I look at her gentle elongated fingers that look like they could break off at any moment; I steal Ann back and attempt to hold the doll in the same manner.   

The time does fly by but I’m not having fun. This is my Friday every Friday; this day is planned for me and there is never any difference. I try to remember what we did in the short hour we spent together and realize that the time was spent with me on the floor playing with the toys meant for much younger children than I, and she talking to Sandra about things they thought I didn’t understand. We embrace for another moment and then she begins walking toward the door swaying her hips as she walks which in turn sways the bottom of her skirt that I imagine is waving goodbye to me. She, like me an hour earlier, turns down the silver handle that keeps the door closed and with a little struggle opens it, rests it upon her stiletto-heeled, pointy-toe, velvet shoes with the bow, and turns around and says she loves me. I mutter something similar in return, and she walks out of the door frame as the door quickly shuts behind her until it is caught by the air pressure stopper on the top of the door and gracefully swings into place. 

I go home and see his face; I hate that face. He doesn’t even ask how it went. He, as usual, is putting something laden with grease into the microwave so he could later stuff it into his unfeeling face piece by piece until he has slurped up every last drop of grease. All people find their brothers disgusting, but I find mine repulsive. Looking at him literally makes me want to vomit. 

He has always been my big brother, someone to take care of me, someone to look up to, and up until this moment I had, on occasion, but, “never again,” I promise my self.  

It is Friday again, but months have passed. Five months to be exact. The cold, harsh, biting weather outside finally begins to match the sentiment the walls of this building reflect. It is November, and Thanksgiving is right around the corner. There is nothing to be thankful about. “Nothing except all the things you have, a roof over your head, your freedom,” is another phrase coined by my repetitive monkey of a therapist; what the hell does she know? 

As she takes her usual stroll into the room and realizes he is still not present, she looks at me and she notices a striking difference: we are alone. That’s right mom, no adults to fill our time together, just you, and me. Take a seat. I guess we really aren’t alone; Sandra is right behind the “Black Mirror.” I’m sure she still thinks I’m unaware it is not a mirror at all; adults are insane. They seem to underestimate every brain wave a child has; they can kiss my ass. 

She takes a seat next to my small body and for the first time I really see her. She used to be bubbly and have energy. Now she is frail, weak, and small. She apparently doesn’t notice that her skin-and-bones-body can’t fill the wardrobe that her once curvy and plump body could; she still wears the same clothes. I wonder if she thinks because she can fit into the shoes that match the outfits, the outfits will amazingly fit; but they don’t. Someone should tell her. Not only is her body so small the skin seems to hang off of it, it has taken on a jaundice color; her once proud hair hangs limply and straw-like around her shoulders; her skin seems almost transparent, and her veins are like an unmarked road map all over her body. 

She grabs my hand and we sit in silence. We sit in silence for at least five minutes, but it’s a good silence, a silence of realization, a silence of acceptance. This is the last time, the last visit. In a week I will be moving again to another foster home. Progress with her has only gone downhill, and social services decided for us that visits are only prolonging the inevitable: adoption. 

The sadness upon the embroidered face of my doll has become apparent along with the tears streaming out of the headlight eyes upon the remote control car. They seem to know that it will be the last time that they will be played with by my specific hands and the remote control car appears to realize that it will be a while before another child discovers how it works. Although I can only imagine these unlikely emotions coming from the prized inanimate objects, the sadness in the room isn’t imagined and can almost be touched.

I think I am sad. I can’t really tell. My emotions have begun to take on the unfeeling façade that resemble the structure of the building. I begin to look around the room and recognize the living room. I always wondered why people called their living rooms, “living rooms.” No living really is being done in them and usually four-legged family members aren’t allowed to enter them. But this was a real living room; a room that had been lived in. So many people had spent so much of their lives in this room.  I know I would never forget it. I had lived only a small piece of my pie of life in this room; they were minutes and hours I would never forget. I may forget the names and faces of people I once called best friends; I will never forget this room.

She lets go of my hand and I snap back from my tangent-ridden mind.  It’s amazing that I find it hard to imagine something, but I can’t imagine what is going through her mind; she is losing her last piece of family and it’s a decision someone made for her. She looks at me and there is more silence; I have to break it, but I don’t. I feel it’s probably important to her, so I hold back the urge to scream. She finally does what I want her to. She tells me that she’s sorry and again tries to convince me that her alcoholism is a disease that she can’t control. 

The time has yet again passed quickly, and, as I look back, I recognize that it has been spent mostly in silence and understanding. She stands up to face the door that would never again be opened by her hands and I see her skirt is different; it is a pencil skirt that holds no good bye for me. She doesn’t swiftly open the door but stands by it; she is overpowered by its ten foot tall, five inch wide wood planks and she stares at it. She clasps her hands together and laces her fingers one by one and slowly turns to face my small body still being eaten by the pull-you-in-deep sofas. She softly whispers that she is sorry once again and can’t seem to mutter anything else. Tears begin to stream down her face, and she thinks she can defy the thirty-minute system. It’s been thirty-one minutes and she starts stepping toward me; I struggle out of the sofa against its gravity-like pull, when the door suddenly swings open as though its ten-ton weight is as light as a feather; Sandra steps in and takes my mom by the arm. She turns around surprised by Sandra’s touch as though the slamming open of the door made absolutely no sound at all.  She knows it is time. She nods at Sandra then turns to me and simply does something I decide to never forget; she blows a kiss and walks out of the room.  I am alone.

Do I cry?  If I don’t, am I heartless? I decide not to cry. I put my mind to all the packing I will be doing when I return to my temporary home. I turn my mind to other things. Sandra returns and walks me outside to wait for my foster parents. It’s over, nothing more, nothing less, and yet again I am forced to accept the fate that has been handed to me.