We both had the morning off. We spent it walking down brick roads until we reached the farmer’s market. When we got there, something happened to me that usually only happens at crowded stores—or maybe uncrowded stores—and the local humane society. I went through the motions, walked down the scattered booths of vegetables and jams and sunflowers, but I was unable to concentrate on where I was. I had to leave. I think he understood this.
As we were walking back home, we passed an estate sale. I’d never been to one before. Being in someone’s house, fingering through their old possessions, seemed morbid. The house was beautiful, big and brick, or maybe it was white. I could only recall the uncomfortable smile of the realtor on the ‘for sale’ sign that someone had stuck in the yard. I told him that realtors made me sad and he told me it was pronounced real-tors, not real-i-tors.
There is something wrong with me, maybe. I always tell him to never be polite, always walk into places before me. I remain unadventurous. I’ll stare at your back, it will protect me, you can lead the way.
We walked into a kitchen, people diving into its drawers and cabinets. Five cent spoons and fifty cent stained dish towels. We skipped the kitchen because we were in the phase where we refused to be real people. We’re still in that phase.
We went to the living room where paintings and drawings and old postcards were either thrown into boxes or scattered on the table. Paintings hung on the wall. Everything was in German and I wanted badly to be able to understand. I wanted to uncover the owner’s personal thoughts, but I knew I could never understand. I grabbed a random two, in hopes that online translation could solve the case. It never did. He was just a person.
The day itself was beautiful. It was cold but I left my jacket at home thinking the sun could be enough. It gave me a feeling of youth. At recess with no coat and a set of hot lungs, running from whoever was chasing me. But we didn’t run. It was a gentle morning.
I think I got obsessed with the owner. I can’t even recall his name now. I searched him on the internet. He was a professor of something that I knew I would never be able to understand. I read an article that he had written anyway. I had been in this man’s home. I had seen the bed that he and his wife made love in, maybe. I could have used his spoon.
I tried explaining this to him, but he wasn’t as interested as I was. He flipped through a 21st century art history book we had found. We hung a drawing of a couple at the opera on the wall. It looked alright next to the dead sycamore leaf. Our walls were littered with dead plant matter and it was beautiful. What we had was kind of beautiful.
Soon the house became a museum of dead strangers’ belongings. A Scandinavian print of a man hunting a bear. A portrait of Richard M. Nixon. Map of Israel and empty frames. Copper kettle, mermaid lamp. We added more and I continued to search names on the Internet, reading papers and obituaries. Friends would come over and mention a specific item or decoration. I’d say, “It was Martha’s”, as if we had been great friends, or at least family. I don’t know whether or not it became a problem. No one mentioned anything.
Soon he never wanted to go to estate sales with me. He’d tell me the wrong date or house so I would miss them. There was no more room on our walls, on our shelves, in our nooks. We couldn’t walk on the floor. We stayed in one place because it was the only place that wasn’t filled. We weren’t able to make food to eat. We couldn’t make trips to the bathroom. We had to sleep standing up. Soon we died.
When our bodies were carried out, no one had any idea what to do with all everything we had. An estate sale sign was later put outside our house. People came and shuffled through and took our things. Our dead plants were thrown into the dumpster. Paintings slowly taken down. Letters were burnt, postcards maybe sold. Our favorite books found new eyes; forks new mouths.
I don’t know where any of the money went. I don’t know what they found when they searched our names.