A Slice of My 9-year-old Self

I am afraid of the fire extinguisher.

I am confronted with it every time my father takes us across the blue ironwork bridge to visit his mother. We creak and jerk upwards in a cheap, brown-paneled elevator. It opens on a grey green, dimly lit corridor, down which our footsteps echo as we go to grandma’s apartment.

My feet hurt in the shiny shoes I am forced to wear for these occasions. The stabbing in my soles throbs in time with the clicking of my heels as I pace my father down the hallway. My little brother’s short legs struggle to keep up with us, and I tease and kibitz with him, combating the excitement of the unusual outing, and my terror of the upcoming right turn.

Smells of cooking and old people waft from under the blank doors, which march past us on both sides. Their single spyglass eyes judge us, silently. It is hard for me to picture real people behind those flat gazes.

My father refuses to pick me up so I can see in. He once gifted me one of those peepholes, somehow pried from its door. Peering through the small brass tube, things look very large, but through the other end, they are tiny. I think that this peephole is magic, somehow, and cherish it. My father tells us to keep our voices down

We round the corner, and there it is: an impossibly long, hanging, folded grey accordion, a nozzle on one end, coiled into its vertical box on the wall. The extinguisher looks as if it hasn’t been used in a long time, in forever, that it is somehow sleeping, yet could be awoken by the slightest small motion, spiraling violent from its slim coffin, a monstrous jack in the box with enough ropy length to chase me down the hallway. I am not sure if I will be safe by the time I get to my grandmother’s door, surely it can reach that far. My heartbeat hammers in my ears, keeping time with the pain in my feet.

We pass. I’m safe, again. For now.

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