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A Spiritually Enlightening Online Magazine. March's Theme: "Impermanence"
Volume 6 Issue 3 ISSN# 1708-3265

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The Stone House
by Alegria Imperial

At dawn when I crawled to the window to watch shadows fade in the light, the stone building right across our gate would rise, hulking (it had seemed) toward me in tender greeting. I always hoped to make out an old man's figure—the one who the old folks said built the structure for his heirs to perpetuate his name—a towering myth to me and my cousin, Jack.

On sunny days, Jack and I used to break away from our nannies' tight grip and sprint toward the tiny bridge leading to the main door of that house. The bridge spanned a narrow moat, fed by the town's canals siphoning off river overflow. From the foot of the bridge, we would walk, single-filed along the edge of the brick-covered walls and climb up to the ledge of one of the windows. Like dwarfs, we would sit, legs stretched, backs flat against the iron grill, taking in the sun as it bore down on us.

By mid-morning, the dark wooden doors would open… one on each of the four walls, clanging on iron bars unlatched, screeching on rusty hinges. The windows, too, would be flung open, one of two on each side of the front wall where we sat. If our nannies remained distracted by corner street gossip, Jack and I would slink off the ledge and creep inside the stone structure.

Half-lit, doused at angles by dappled sunshine, the cave-like interior allowed Jack and I to creep and skitter around—unnoticed by workers of the dried Virginia tobacco leaf packing company, which occupied the building then. Crawling behind stacks of bundled tobacco leaf, unmindful of the dank smell which clung to us (for which our nannies would have to suffer scolding from our mothers,) Jack and I wove in and out of our fantasies. Raw Food and Fasting Coaching with Aleesha Stephenson

Our favourite fantasy centred on the remains of a giant chandelier, hanging from its chains attached to the high ceiling, frozen in grace—its dozen curving arms and upturned tips forever unlit. We would imagine—as we sat on the ruined steps of what we thought must be a grand staircase, how the chandelier must have flood-lit this hall—the unbroken space before us. Long dining tables like those stacked up under the creaky house we lived in across the street must have been set under its glow. Silverware glinting like those we sometimes used, which had engraved initials of my great grandfather's name. Guests offering their toast on gold-rimmed glasses, like the pair we found in a buffet shelf in Jack's house. However, our fantasies ended when one day we almost fell in a fissure at a subterranean tunnel we discovered—our parents barred us from ever going there again.

Jack and I hardly talked during our university years, not even when a court case stirred enmity in our families. Jack and I did see each other two decades later at the launching of a heritage book about our town. Browsing through its pages, we closed it - miffed at the lack of mention of the stone house. It couldn't have escaped notice of the researchers, we thought, what with its solid brick-covered walls, massive wooden doors, and that moat!

During a rare visit to our town after yet another decade, I missed seeing the landmark. The next morning as we retraced our way with an aunt, I learned why I missed it: it was gone! Where it had hulked like a small mountain for a hundred years, there sprawled a thick growth of poison berries and wild cacti.

"Oh, didn't you know?" my aunt had offered. "It crumbled like a heap of brittle bones in the last earthquake."

"And the moat, what happened to it?" I asked.

"Oh, it had long dried up, just as the river did."

I would have to tell Jack about it, I vowed. But on my way back to Manila, I decided against it. I had by then realized no matter how massive my great grandfather built a structure to defy impermanence, he failed. It was then when I remembered our childhood fantasies about his monument to which we never did belong. Like the moving frames on the car window, these folded into thin air as I drove on.

A seeker of truth and peace after tangled pathways, I have also found a voice in my search. A retired journalist, I have since focused on poetry and fiction. I launched my first book in Manila before migrating to Vancouver last year and recently received two honourable mentions for poetry.

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