I want all buildings to be old buildings. I want brick walls or older than brick walls. Caves underneath the base of the houses that the houses were built on, walls creased in limestone or granite or ash. Walls that speak when you touch them. I want old lantern lights that illuminate only a small space that makes it look mired in fog, and everything around it cast in an aching bleakness of history and darkness and death. I want your ghosts to be my ghosts. I want the halls to be filled to the brim with them. I want the cellar in your house to be home to banshees. Witches who were hung in your trees. I want your ancestors. Bring them to me. Stack them in my backyard; write to me their stories, fill letters with the things they have done wrong, with the things they had to do when they knew they weren’t right. I want to visit every cemetery and kiss the stones, place my bare feet in the unforgiving grounds. Every staircase should be a spiral, and all windows should stretch to the heavens and beyond. There should be pillars on every front porch and bell towers that ring out on the hour every hour, no matter the day or how the world around us is falling apart. Doors should all be heavy and hard to open and when they close, it should be with a thud and not a bang.
If I had a daughter, like the daughter I saw in some dreams a few times, some time ago, who had white blonde hair and great big hazel eyes, unless it wasn’t really a daughter, or at least it wasn’t my daughter, the one I’ll never have, but was maybe instead me reverted back to the size of a daughter, even though I am still a daughter but no longer think of myself as one, I would name her Melancholy, like one of those weird superstars who name their children un-names. We would call her Mel for short and she would love all things blue and lay around in beds of flowers, watching storm clouds in the sky and the way the ocean grays first on the edges and then darkens to the center of its core. When people asked her what her name meant she’d tell them it means ‘women who missed what they never had,’ or ‘girl in love with the wrong man,’ or ‘skirts bunched up around waists,’ or ‘tears that fall so slow they dry hard on the cheeks before they can reach the chin.’ When they’d ask if she was depressed she’d recite Baudelaire, “I can barely conceive of a type of beauty in which there is no melancholy.” And when they’d look confused, as those outside the realm of possibility almost always do, she’d curtsy and scamper off to have conversations with the doves that nestle in the tree branches outside her window, and at night she’d push her bed next to the window, so she could read by the light of the stars, and when a young boy would go strolling down the street after dark she would see him under the hue of the streetlight and fall drop down in love. And when he broke her heart she’d want to rip it from her own body, simply so she wouldn’t have to feel the cracks where it used to beat. I’d take her in my arms and whisper, Melancholy, my melancholy, your tears are not your own. Melancholy, my melancholy, heartbreak is your home. And when she’d run from me. I’d let her. And when she’d curl herself into the soil of the damp earth. I’d let her. And when she’d come back home, hair thick with moss and ferns, I’d tuck her in the quilt I used when I was a daughter of my own.
Shilo Niziolek is based in Portland, Oregon, where she spends much of her time enamored with the sound the wind makes blowing through the trees. Her nonfiction has appeared in Oregon Humanities online publication Beyond the Margins, SLAB, Broad River Review, Litro Magazine, VoiceCatcher, among others, and is forthcoming in Buckman Journal and Fearsome Critters. She is currently seeking a home for her essay collection, Grief Distortion, and is working on her MFA from New England College.