I know the place was geographically closer to the center of town, but the exact location where it could have been, I don’t remember anymore. I came back too late, a lot has changed and whatever fragments I could summon from my memory are too vague to be accurate. Therefore, I could not be held accountable for anything I might say. My words cannot be used as a source of reliable information.
As far as I could remember it was always dark in there for we had a small gas lamp which in my recollection was perpetually burning. I know also that there was one window on the front side (or was it at the back?) of the house (was it located between two streets? I can’t remember!) which for some unknown reason had never been opened. Perhaps the property used to be a small shop, I don’t know.
The inside of the house try as I might, I cannot picture the layout. If there was a kitchen or a bedroom I can’t remember anymore. It was a terrace house, that I am almost certain. The place was sandwiched between other nondescript buildings of forgotten colours in a neighbourhood which was equally hazy as my memory.
But there were scenes that are still clear in my mind. One of those was of my eldest sister (or was it my mother?) holding the hand of one of my younger siblings (I think it was Ems) over the gas lamp to sanitize the wounds that covered all of her fingers which were packed with pus. I can still hear her cry of protest even to these days.
There were bits and pieces of conversation I can recall. Like that one night I heard my eldest sister talking to some unseen people in the next room. I think they might be relatives for she talked freely with them. The conversation went like this:
“Put out the light.” The voice of a man said.
“Why would you want it out?” my sister asked.
“Because I want to score.” Muffled giggles of a female.
“You don’t need the light to be out for that.” I can hear the smile in my sister’s voice.
“It makes me uncomfortable. I used to doing it in the dark.” Said the man again.
“Why not take the example of my father, your uncle. He doesn’t mind doing it in broad daylight.” My sister chuckled.
And that’s all I can remember of that exchange.
In my memory, we had one neighbor, a family who sold popcorn for a living. They made the batch on a small single burner gas stove, packing them in small cellophane bags and sealed the lot over a candle flame. There were perhaps kids around my age or older but the images dance in and out of focus in my head.
The most vivid of my recollection was the night we heard some commotion outside. I remember waking up to the sound of angry voices and pitiful crying. Did someone open the door, or carried me outside for when I sat up I saw a mother dragging a struggling child with her. I can’t recall if it was a boy or a girl, but the kid was naked, that much I can remember. The woman proceeded by tying up the wailing kid around a lamp post (or maybe it was a water hand pump?) and left the poor bairn there crying whole night.
I wish someone could tell me if all of these are true. But there is no one from my family anymore to set the record straight. Those who are still among us are far and scattered all over the planet and I have no contact with them since time immemorial. And even so__ I am not sure if we share the same memories or if they have been there at all…
There is another aspect of these memories that bothers me every now and again… the fact that I could not recall if my parents were present or not. I don’t remember seeing the pair of them there. If not_ were where they? How about my other siblings? Aside from those I’ve mentioned, they were MIA as well.
Sometimes I think I must have imagined the whole thing…
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