The beginning

Some of the wooden boards and posts have been replaced. The kitchen is now part of the house and constructed of concrete, and there is a small, unplanned concrete addition that houses a toilet and bath. The paint is cracked and peeling and its color no longer recognizable because of long years of unkind weather. Now partially boarded-up from within to compensate for missing glass louvers, this patchwork on the two kitchen windows serves to prevent unauthorized entry. Except for these changes, the house is, essentially, the same.

In addition to the kitchen and toilet/bath, there are three bedrooms and a living room. The exposed galvanize sheets show extensive evidence of wear and tear. When it rains, the roof leaks in some places and pots and pans are used to catch the rogue raindrops. Some of the hardboard sheets used to build partitions for the bedrooms have begun to sag, and one bedroom door no longer stays shut. The decaying floorboards creak and bend outwards under your weight.

There is very little furniture: two beds―one of which sags in the middle―in two bedrooms, a table positioned against the hardboard partition of the bedroom closest to the kitchen, three or four chairs that came with the table, a living room suite of wrought-iron chairs that have seen better days, an easy chair my sister bought for my mother when she could still sit up on her own, a fridge, and a four-burner stove. The eastern corner of the living room houses a stand that was once occupied by a television set. There is an empty chest in one of the two unused bedrooms, and an old dresser with its mirror covered with a large bathing towel in my mother’s bedroom.

Joy and laughter do not exist within the confines of this house. Those commodities are as alien as the patter of tiny feet that once graced this floor in other times and other places. Poverty has maintained its clawed grip on this place like a ruthless bird of prey, and its hard demeanor is reflected in lives that have gone their separate ways. There is a coldness here, and a hard, tense feeling that envelops you and stays with you long after you have left. And you want to leave as soon as you enter through the door. You want to run away from this presence that reeks of internal conflict and quiet despair.

An old woman lies on a bed in one of the three bedrooms. She is bed-ridden and diagnosed with cancer and diabetes. A wizened hand afflicted with Parkinson’s disease cups her chin as she looks out the window, facing south, at the street. A large, rectangular piece has been neatly cut from her bedroom partition so she could see the street. Her face registers no expression, but her eyes are haunted pools of slowly fading memory. She, too, is a victim; a victim of this house that sucks the life out of you; a victim of this house of tears—this house that weeps.

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