Consider the arrival of a new tenant to a basement apartment. He is a young man in his late twenties. He has a goatee and sideburns, because the year is 1998, and most young men of that time had those things on their face. He wears jeans and a t-shirt, has very few belongings, all of which fit in the bed of the rusted pickup he’s backed into the drive of the old home. He turns the key in the door and enters for the first time to scope out the place he will call home. It is possible our story begins here.
It is also possible it ends here. Had we been following the previous tenant, this might feel right, as an ending. Perhaps our concern should be with this other person. He is also a young man in his late twenties, whose appearance is so similar as to be the same, and whose departure is its own beginning. So you see, these decisions of story are arbitrary, and fallible. Mistakes might be made, wrong choices, when we attempt to decide such things.
And now of course the question is, where to go from here. Which young man should concern us? The one arriving, or the one departing? And if we choose incorrectly, what then? I say we, but clearly it is I who must do the choosing. I must decide for us. And you must trust me.
I choose the man arriving. We will begin there. It will be our point of entry to the story, but not necessarily the beginning. Though at some point we may find ourselves back where we began. Or starting over. It all has much to do with the house.
The house has been crouched over the basement for over one hundred years. It has a long history, and this history is unknown to us. The history may matter a great deal, but we cannot know how it matters, only that it does. We cannot know all the souls who’ve lived in the home, only that they have. Meals have been prepared, meat cooked in ovens, sauces simmered on stoves, bottles of wine spilled, children conceived. Wallpaper has been chosen, installed, enjoyed, become tiresome, been removed. Terrible fights have occurred. Love has been shared. And the residue of it all lingers like smoke in the walls.
People have died within these walls, and some have lived, more or less. There was word of a suicide. These details are lost to us, we know only that they must influence anyone who enters. Some people are more sensitive to these things, some less. But the house has had experiences over time, and absorbed them, as all houses do. And these things come to bear. They matter.
They matter because the basement is no longer a basement. Where once it had concrete blocks for walls and bare earth for a floor, it now has a carpeted floor, finished walls painted a neutral shade to beckon new tenants. The house above has been cut into four separate dwellings. It is no longer a family home, but home to many, some for short periods of time. People come and go now more than ever before. The life of the house has accelerated, as the house itself has aged. The older it gets, the faster it spins. It might wish to hold its weary head.
So there is risk involved in choosing where to begin, you see. But we’ve chosen. Or rather I’ve chosen, and you must trust me. Let us begin.