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The Collector

If Walls Could Talk Challenge

By Shea DunlopPublished about a year ago 3 min read
The Collector
Photo by Manja Vitolic on Unsplash

If walls could talk, I don't think I would.

Not to people, at least.

There's something profoundly intimate about being with a person when they think they are alone.

Humans are performative creatures. Everything from their posture to their intonation to the light behind their eyes adjusts in the presence of another person. I don't think they realize just how much of themselves they lose to someone else.

No, if walls could talk, I wouldn't.

I have always thought of myself as a collector. I was a built-in, when such things were fashionable, all the better to display the knick-knacks and trinkets of the housewife: her grandmother's porcelain teacups, framed family photographs, cigar boxes, crystal decanters. Objects on display for houseguests when entertaining. Objects I could hold when the husband's rage made the candlesticks wobble.

I collected the items that told her story.

But the kids grew up. The parents moved out. A new couple moved in.

They thought the built-in was gauche.

So, it was demolished with hammers and saws. In moved a curved lime green couch, a swanky new record player, and — wallpaper.

I collected outfits.

They never seemed happy with the decor, this couple. A few months would go by, then a new painting would get hung, or taken down, or moved around. A beaded curtain went up, only for the cat to bat it down.

And then all at once, silence.

No, if walls could talk, I wouldn't.

What would I have to say to the burly movers, none too gently disassembling the couch? What would the gloomy contractor have to add while stripping me of my clothes?

I was a collector of stories, and the main characters had up and left without so much as a goodbye.

But tall I stood, patiently I waited, until Lillian moved in.

Lillian's first step over the threshold was accompanied by a sigh of relief.

For nearly two years I'd watched the realtor march prospective buyer after prospective buyer through, no one staying long enough to let me learn their singularities. There are no stories to be collected through the snippets of,

"Well, our budget isn't really right for..."

"If the kids were a little younger..."

"If Grand-Dad could handle the stairs..."

Everyone had their own reason to avoid me.

No, if walls could talk, I wouldn't.

What could I say to convince them to stay, when so many factors made this the wrong place at the wrong time?

But Lillian!

She tossed her keys in the air as she walked through the front door, laundry basket full of cleaning supplies balanced on her hip. She scrubbed every surface, dusted every cobweb. She burned a small bundle of herbs, speaking aloud all the while.

"Here I can rest, here I feel safe, here I am home."

She hung paintings of her own creation, wooden carvings from her travels. She hung her camera, the lens through which she views the world.

I collected these pieces of her story gladly in my arms.

She nestled the back of her couch up against me, plugging in a flat screen TV on a stand across the room.

I watched the actors perform from over her shoulder. I wondered if she realized just how much influence the screen had on her behavior. I knew the real woman, her friends did not. They knew an amalgamation of the characters on the screen.

She was never quite herself around them. Not when they brought over their yapping dog to entice her on a walk, not when they joined her for a glass of wine, not even when they threw on a horror film and clutched each other in fright.

Lillian came alive when she was by herself.

She stared into space and smiled at nothing. She rehearsed little conversations under her breath. She stopped sucking in her stomach. She tried again and again to get that vocal run just right.

No, if walls could talk, I wouldn't.

Lillian deserves to be all her own.

Short StoryHistorical

About the Creator

Shea Dunlop

Short stories, anecdotes, and niche interests.

Searching for the meaning of life or maybe just $4 to get an everything bagel with cream cheese.

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Comments (1)

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  • Sylvie Vidrineabout a year ago

    I really enjoyed the creative concept of this piece. It made me think of my own personality while at work, with friends, my spouse, or alone in my home. Over time I’m realizing all of those personalities are merging into one.

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