This story is very problematic, but there is an idea that I'm trying to explore that I like very much. Maybe I can have some help finding it? One day, one day.
In my days of youth, as a girl so small she could barely climb into bed and maneuver around the safety-bar that lined her 101 Dalmatian bedding, I thought I lived in a castle. My room expanded infinitely, the door miles away from the desk, which in turn was a ferry-ride away from my bed, that of which barely stretched to the window, the very same window that I opened wide and removed the bug-screen, little body crawling out and sitting on the roof top, shingles hot in the summertime, a view so expansive the children playing in the street, those who cried “CAR” at the top of their lungs when they had to scatter, looked like ants.
My castle: two floors, a basement, and an attic. It was so large that there was a bathroom in the foyer that no one ever used, because we lived like kings and we had rooms that were only for show and decoration. My brother, was way down the hall, my parents far off on the other side, and a balcony—yes, a real balcony!—that overlooked the stair landing, a drop that looked like certain death indeed if I were to slip through the bars.
The backyard was truly stunning. There was the deck, of course, and the secret underground passageway my father had cleverly constructed. We had tunnels, escape routes for emergencies, a dirty underworld that stained my clothes and got my best friend banned from my home for at least a month. I mean, there could have been raccoons under there. But the real treasure of the backyard wasn’t the deck, but instead the acres of fields it overlooked. First it was mowed, crew-cut grass, and then long high weeds that were perfect imagining a savanna, and finally the eruption of a dense forest, home to the deer that would cautiously wander to our gardens and eat Annabelle’s chives and bolted when the neighbor’s dog came too close.
Yes, it felt like a castle, in a strange land where the neighbor’s last names were a clash of vowels and consonants. Titles I could not pronounce. It didn’t matter; I listened to their accents and pretended that I, too, could be a sexy Russian spy. My next-door neighbor, deaf and mute, was clearly the town jester. Bright-eyed Michelle Cohen, three doors down, could have been our potions master. He was so funny when he saw fireworks; he couldn’t hear them explode. He’d run around, clapping, pointing at the bright lights in the air, excited for what he must have thought was the end of the world. My mother, deeply involved in her prayer books every Friday night, was easily leading a double life as both Queen and Clergy.
My castle lasted for years, but then I started to grow. It started to crumble.
I could make it up the stairs, two at a time, in seconds. The balcony was just a railing, a precaution. My floor, always messy, would run out of surface area and suddenly the door and the desk and the bed were all cramped together, almost touching. The journey out the window felt dangerous. I was too big; I ripped the bug screen, on accident, and as I sat on the roof my legs stretched to the end, toes passing the gutter, rainwater splashing on my heels.
The dining room and the living room bled together. Our kitchen table made deck access almost impossible. My father had to suck in his belly so that he could squeeze past a chair and slide the glass door open simultaneously.
I couldn’t explore the underground anymore, not without scratching my gangly arms on the wooden planks above me, or bruising my kneecaps on the rocky terrain I crawled upon.
My body had outgrown the castle. It was just a tiny townhouse on Shadowbend Dr., a housing complex full of immigrants and new, poor families, my father’s trade school degree unable to earn us something more glamorous. At fourteen, the year we moved away, I saw the house as my parents saw it: squashed, suffocating. But also, I saw it for what I yearned for: cozy. Safe.
I have never loved a size so much. Extra small. I can identify, of course. Extra Small. It means one thing: comfort.