Better and better, then worse and worse. That is the way that it went. Maybe the way it always goes, I don’t know.
But still, everything, better and better, for years. I built the spiral staircase – finished it! – I spun it right up through where my childhood bedroom had been. It blossomed up onto a landing above the old living room. I put a garden in up there. A trellis with trumpet vines. A telescope so I could look out across the harbor. Across the sky.
And of course by that time, the entire west end of the house was different. New and improved. Expanded. Remodeled. Remade in accordance with my dreams.
It was my life’s work, this house.
I mean, flying buttresses. I was going to have flying-fucking-buttresses! They were on back order, but I was going to have them. Soon. Flying buttresses and an indoor swimming pool. And a bowling alley. And a watch tower. And a mill tower. And a private theater for movies and something called an “upper bailey,” though I did not have a clue what an upper bailey even was.
On Sundays, the townspeople came. They came down the hill to the beach so they could see my house and so they could see me work and so they could see the progress I had made.
They said, “Look at what Katy’s done now!”
They said, “Her house is more amazing this week than last!”
They said, “Just imagine how amazing her house will be tomorrow!”
Better and better and higher and higher, and it kept on like that right up to the moment when everything changed. When everything got worse and worse.
The morning it happened, I opened my eyes. I blinked, blinked again, and everything was wrong. The light coming in the window – that window over near the chest of drawers and the shelf on which I’d placed the picture of Dad and also the German mug from our trip to Berlin – was wrong. My inner compass was wrong, tilted, off somehow.
Perhaps I had overslept. Perhaps it was afternoon already. Perhaps I was ill.
Perhaps. But no. I stood – wrong, wobbly, the wooden floor felt crooked – and I made my way to the window and I saw… open sea. Breathe, keep breathing, and I ran to the front porch, which was now the prow of the house.
During the night a tide had come and pulled my house out to sea! And the west end was gone, and the trellis with the trumpet vines was gone, and the garden and the telescope and the back porch, gone.
I panicked. Ran back inside, from window to window to see what I’d lost.
“I have to get back to shore!” I shouted out at no one. I mean, good Lord, I had to find and I had to reattach the west end of my home. And the trellis with the trumpet vines. And the garden. And the telescope. And the back porch. Obviously!
I shouted out at no one, “My flying-fucking-buttresses are supposed to be delivered today!”
No shoreline in sight. I was floating on the ocean, my feet dangling off the porch, eating cold beans from a can and thinking. Planning. Dreaming. How would I ever finish my dream house out here?
* * * * *
Worse and worse.
After three months, a wave came along and took my whole front porch away. After four months, the chest of drawers fell through a rotten spot in the floor. And the floorboards leaked. And the paint faded. And cracks lined the walls and the ceilings.
At night, sometimes, there were cruise ships full of people. Out there. I’d hear their music and their laughter. I’d see the flashing lights of their never-ending parties. But the cruise ships never saw me.
No one was coming to rescue me now.
On Wednesday, I woke up feeling empty and blue, thinking, “How could life ever be worse than this?”
I climbed up on the headboard and then through a hole in the roof. And I looked down at my house, floating on the ocean. At my life’s work. My home. At the holes and the cracks and the rips and the rot.
It looked horrible. Disappointing. Hopeless, even.
But I knew no matter how bad my house looked (and it looked very, very bad), it would never look this good again. I could see my future. Worse and worse. The windows would fall out and the canned goods would run out and my bed would crumble to dust.
Tomorrow will be just like today but an itsy bit worse. The day after tomorrow will be an itsy bit worse still. And I sit here now, knowing I will look back on this – in a week, in a month, in a year – and I will call this The Good Old Days.
Everyone would have marveled at my amazing flying buttresses.