It was warmer outside. The sky was a pinkish red, overwhelmed with the flocks of Icarus heading far beyond the pasture fields over his fence. Isra finished picking up his clothes from the line but stopped dead in his tracks. There it was again, watching. Standing taller as he ignored it. How long could he afford to? In his mind, not that long. The rusty hoe was propped up next to the shed. Isra picked it up. He held the handle with a sturdy grip and moved to a modest patch of ground near the avocado tree. There were only a few patches of grass spurting here and there, worked long before he came. Isra slipped one hand to the bottom of the shaft and the other, closer to the neck. He raised the hoe’s head behind his shoulder and winded it up. Standing still like a statue, Isra held the position as a growing ache gathered around his arms and wrist. He couldn’t do it, nor could he let it go. The pain in his wrists felt as if someone had tied them up with a thick rope and tightened the binds. He tried to look back up at the sky, to keep his mind off the pain. The clouds passed by, one by one, like curtains in a play, ending here and beginning somewhere else; far away from the limelight and into obscurity. Within what felt like an hour, Isra dropped the hoe, his hands shaking violently, and left it on the neglected soil below. The sun was set, and the day seemed over.
It was colder inside. The entire house had become the mouth of a cave and Isra, a lost dweller. He stood close to the walls, scanning with his hands and flicked the light switch. A single click went about the bedroom, but there was no light. Like a blind man, Isra treaded towards his wardrobe. He pulled out a flashlight and gave it a press. Nothing. “Stuck in the night, a robin in fright.” Isra went along the walls, past an arch that led to the living room , past a coffee table and finally, past a pile of paint cans. Isra went along the walls, worked his way past what felt like the doorframe and continued. He knew where he was, more or less, and moved towards his left, where the archway to the living room was. Unconsciously, his steps made a right turn, passing by a coffee table in the middle of the room and then speedily darted to the left, avoiding a pile of paint cans. They were there for a long time, and he made sure to always avoid them, but even in the dark, they still stared at him. “Straight for the kitchen. Left, no, right drawer, third one”. He found a box of matches, but there was not a single candle. “First drawer? No, that one’s for knives. “Second? No, nothing. Maybe there are some in the wardrobe? Could be”.
One match faintly lit up the kitchen with a warm, orange tinge. The pungent smell of the match followed him as he took short, mincing steps past the heap of tin-plated steel. Isra stopped next to the closest door; his hand gravitated to it, over the faded stickers on it. “Small hearts from a smaller boy.” The match died off and Isra was blind again. He went to reach over for another matchstick, feeling his fingers opening the box. Another small, dancing light brightens the room gently. As Isra attempted to shuffle back to his room, his foot caught a hold of one of the legs from his coffee table that set him tumbling down. Swiping his arms frantically, he tried to grab ahold of something in vain and knocked over a heap of things that either shattered or gave a loud thump by the time he landed.
Isra made no gesture and laid there. “The floor used to be more comfortable than this,” he chuckled, then scanned carefully the tile floor with one hand until he felt the broken shards of glass and with the surface of his palm, moved the pieces away. A piece of glossy paper rested there. The tip of his fingers grazed it. He lifted it up by the edges and rested the paper on his chest. There was a long, uninterrupted silence in the room.
Isra nodded repeatedly. “I know,” he responded in a low voice. “I know I should, it just—doesn’t feel right, you know?” he paused. “Changing it all like this,” he paused again. “I know you’re right. But what if I regr–” Isra laughed. “Yeah, It’s mine now. Like you said,” he sighed. “I just didn’t think it’d be this soon.” Isra’s eyes trailed aimlessly in the dark. “There is no need for sight when the heart leads,” he recited like a mantra.
Isra picked himself up from rubble and paced himself to the looming tower of paint. He stared directly into the eyes of his troubles and challenged it for good. Standing on his toes, he grabbed each can from the top and arranged them arbitrarily at the bottom. After each can of paint was opened, there was no wasting time, not in this space. And with a few brushes and trays, he mixed and matched the colors of his life; a little blue for his blues, a little gray for his new days and why not? A bit of red to match his new bed. The colors flew unrestrained. Isra had no idea how it would turn out, but something in him said to keep going, to go for the room. That same one with the valentine stickers he made. He was in front of it, ready to strike with color. A firm placed hand was on the handle. His breathing was heftier, but his mind was determined. The door opened after a quick tilt and while his eyes could not see, Isra remembered the room as it was and what it became; from a symbol of love and ignorance to a symbol of grief and regret. It was time to change, to transform and ultimately, to move on.
The neighbors woke up to the sound of a hoe crashing down repeatedly on the ground. They walked out to their balconies with curious looks to find the young man, smeared in paint, ploughing the patch of land in his backyard. His eyes looked absorbed and he ploughed as if nothing, but his work existed. He was molding the land that he now accepted as his. A land that was destined for change, not to be capsuled and preserved, but transformed into something new, something beautiful. He stopped and stood tall for the moment, facing the new light of the day. The sun rose, down below near the end of the pasture and shed its first amber streaks on his new home. On the turquoise colored shed, steadily watching, gleamed the shattered sentinel of his past: a taped photograph of a boy with his two grandparents, all of them covered in paint and dirt, covered in the happiness that he rediscovered.
Native to Camuy, Puerto Rico, Bryan Ramos Romero is a junior student writer majoring in English (Literature) in the University of Puerto Rico at Mayagüez. His work has been previously published in the Sábanas Bilingual Literary Magazing and he is primarily focused on short story fiction writing.
© 2020, B.R. Grayson