SPOTLIGHT: Daydreams, Obsessions, Realities by Matthew McGuirk

“Walls that Make up Boxes”


Aren’t we all looking for security?

Aren’t we all looking for walls around us and

a box to keep us safe from those scary things,

the cold things,

the things that try to get in when the world is dark?

We all have our walls and our boxes,

unless we don’t.

What happens when what we’re walling out is what is saving us

and what we’re walling in is ourselves

and all we are is afraid of ourselves

and what we might do without these walls and these boxes

or what we might do inside these walls and these boxes?

The world is afraid of us,

but are we afraid to be alone with ourselves

in this box with these walls?

What happens when we get out of that box

and it feels a little too good,

a little too free,

not enough of that security,

those restrictions,

those normal rules?

What happens when something goes wrong

and we’re back with our walls, our box.

Who’s being protected then?

Is this really


“287 Riverview Road”

The door to our new house in the country stuck a little and scraped wood on wood when I gave it the shoulder to get in, but aren’t all old houses like that? We bought sight unseen and over list price because that’s what the market called for and we needed to get out of the city with a disease running door to door. When we stepped inside, we saw the owners hadn’t taken the time to clean and the place was a mess, but it was our mess. Marie went to the kitchen sink and looked out over the Connecticut River. “It’s beautiful, Sherman!” I wandered over and saw the blue of the water carving into the cliff below and the far bank reaching skyward and dotted with a mix of leaves and needles; New Hampshire was a picture of New England and it was our shared snapshot now.

We listened to the river with the windows open while bagging up the trash and threw it in the bin near the end of the winding dirt drive. With the trash gone the condition of the house became apparent: the hand scraped floorboards had separating some along the back wall, something that comes with age I was sure and we noticed a few cracks in the plaster, but these were things that don’t show up in realtor’s pictures. When we went to bed the feel of the country washed over us; country nights were quiet and the river sang a soothing song to lull us to sleep.

Pop, pop, pop. We were awake now, but where did that come from? We both ran downstairs to see boards bending away from each other on the back wall, the tension forcing nails to pop out of place and onto the floor, which began to separate. We watched it break in the fashion it was laid, some short boards remained and some longer ones and the kitchen sink and cabinets went tumbling down the cliff to the water below, a soft plunk in the middle of the night. I looked at the wreckage and could only chuckle, “you said you wanted to connect with nature.”

We were alright though and the missing wall in the kitchen gave us a good breeze. It was summer after all and we didn’t really need to fix the fourth wall until fall began to bring cooler nights. I even crafted a rope ladder and threw it down to the river and we collected fresh water, it was probably healthier for us than stuff from the tap anyways. We decided we’d use pulleys and send the laundry down for washing too and put up a clothesline in the front yard to dry it, try to lighten our electric bill a little and feel a little more in tune with the land. We sat at our kitchen island and watched the sun set over the deep cut riverbank in the west, an orange tapestry fading to black. We clinked wine glasses to our great view, which was only improved by the forced remodel.

The popping came again or maybe it was a cracking this time and the next chunk of the house fell into the river. We still had the stairs to the bedrooms but would now need to move the master to where the guest room was. Our kitchen island was no more, but we’d just watch the sunsets from the couch and smile with our glasses of wine. We now kept our beverages and any other perishables or food we wanted to keep cool in a portable cooler because the refrigerator was somehow still clinging to safety but looked a little wobbly and we didn’t want to fall in with it when it did go. We just smiled knowing we weren’t in the city where people were being ravaged by the awful disease and we were able to have all the fresh air we wanted.

Still, I began to wonder if we’d get some sort of break on our taxes because our 2,000 square foot house was now 1,000 square feet, but they’d probably just hit us with a view tax instead. Maybe I’d take my chances, but I’d have to make an appointment with a representative and have them come out and check the new square footage to make sure I wasn’t rounding it wrong or something. I was glad I hadn’t called yet because another piece fell in and now we were teetering on the edge. We no longer had the upstairs or downstairs bathroom and we were camping out on the couch near the door and just staying there for bed because the staircase led to nowhere now.

Then it happened…the river continued its methodical cutting into the bank and we just sort of fell off the cliff with the remainder of the house. We’re now sitting on a hunk of floorboards, making the best of this situation and the country air, but unfortunately, I’m a geography buff and I know the Connecticut will spit us out in Long Island Sound and we’ll be right back to that big city we left not long ago!


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