Grandfather’s desk

An older woman is sitting in an old armchair alone and remembering her life, especially the secret drawer in her grandfather’s desk. her voice is reflective of a life of feeling that there was always something just out of her reach, like the secret drawer itself.

The piece was originally performed as a monologue in local theatre.

Grandfather’s desk, dark wood glistening. Pen scratching, paper rustling on a desk in a room forbidden to enter; shallow breathing at the closed door, alert to slip away. Creaking chair, click of a turning key, a sigh behind the door, always closed.

Not always.

One day open enough for little hands, little face to make a space, a crack to gaze at lamp glow -such green!-curtains dark shadows, books looming above, cigar smoke catching my throat.

Tiptoeing away.

Coming back. Small heart beating down the passageway, easing the door, creeping over carpet one foot carefully placed in front of the other. Touching wood, paper, pens, ink bottle, hardly daring to breathe, curtains trembling behind me. Whispers.

Tingling, shivering, running away.

Drawn back that summer day, flies buzzing, dying at the window. Opening drawers trance-like, fingers hesitating, stopping, one drawer different, not exactly flush, not perfect in that perfect desk. Fingers softly press a wooden panel to show a tiny key in a tiny lock in a tiny secret drawer. Breathing harsher, heart pounding, too scared to open the drawer, to be found.

Running away.

Piano music in the drawing room, chair hard and square against my legs, fire crackling and popping, embers into ash, children dozing from heavy Sunday lunch. Slipping away, quiet down the passageway, remembering. Grandfather’s study abandoned now, desk gathering dust, motes in shadowed light. Books hazy in autumn’s fade, cigar smoke a faint memory. Warm wood, cool metal keys, lamplight splashing emerald bright on my rings; fingers bigger, stronger on the tiny key in the tiny drawer. Leather chair creaking, fingers heavy on the key. Car horn sudden, loud. Children’s voices calling, steps running, quickly the key, hands shaking, sweating, fumbling almost open the drawer and a glimpse of – what? Reaching. Steps, voices closer, sweep shut the tiny drawer. Must see, but not now.

Not now.

Winter light washing through me, bone chill damp in the house. Walking stick echoes on the tiled floors, dust and damp strong in my throat. Mildew walls, study door open, curtains limply falling, books cracked and musty. Alone. No music, no voices, no hurrying steps. A smell of silence. Crooked hands tracing dust, rotting papers, small spider watching on the lamp, broken now. Stiff, clumsy fingers on the key, turn the tiny rusty key, open the tiny secret drawer.



Always empty?

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