The Sepia Room

Today I sit in my usual place, sipping tea and watching the passers-by.

Within these walls, I live in the safety of the past, everything faded and known. Muffled voices come through the crackle of an old radio, narrating a brown-and-tan world of well rehearsed dance and drama.

As I peer through the sagging window, nothing threatens, nothing surprises. The memorabilia of past joys collect dust on a nearby shelf, comforting reminders of love, belonging, and home. From this vantage point I can participate in the present at a distance (only I must ignore the cracks that might let in a beam of something new).

It is safe, yes, and also numbingly familiar.

Rising from my comfy chair, I survey the endless paper chains of memories hanging from the walls, some from last decade and some from last week, all faded like a cache of flash-bulb treasures from another century. Today’s photographs are already coffee-rinsed and pinned on the line, their edges curling in the filtered sunlight.

With practice even the most vibrant moment can be brought to bear resemblance to a well-worn experience. New pains quickly take on the appearance of old friends and, forgeries though they are, they stare back at me from the walls, sympathizing with their knowing looks.

I have lived here many years, choosing this muffled, faded existence over the uncertainty of present pains and joys… yet how tired I have grown of the endlessly beige landscape before me!

I sink back into the chair, chin in my hand, and resume my watch over the tired drama before me. A slight, mischievous breeze slips through one of the cracks in the window, ruffling the yellowed lace curtains and wafting the scent of spring flowers past my nose. I turn down the radio and listen to the murmurings of the outside world, punctuated by distant squeals of laughter.

Quite suddenly, a whispered prayer falls from my lips, charging the stale air with an electric energy.

Draw me out of my sepia-tone house! Let your light burst, unfiltered, into my soul! Illuminate my world, drawing out its true tones, its vibrant colors! Make me brave to face the present reality, to put away my archetypes and allow new characters to grace the stage…

I jump up to unlatch the window, taking one last look at my old, familiar heroes and villains playing out their old, familiar plots. As fresh air and blinding sun flood the musty room, I wonder who they will turn out to be in this new light. Perhaps they will follow the well-worn paths etched in my memory. But would it be so terrible if they didn’t?

It may be that the present is a beautiful new story, waiting for permission to unfold.

© 2019 Jacqueline Tisthammer. All Rights Reserved.

3 thoughts on “The Sepia Room

  1. Now for the sequel! 🙂 I’m picturing an old woman sitting in front of a television, children and grandchildren grown and living in other states, her friends all passed away. She’s old, but still able to live in her own home, still able to take care of herself, and still hungering for life. She wants out of the prison she’s made for herself. Now that she’s opened the window and let the air in… what happens next, Jackie? This growing-older-woman wants to know.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I am hopeful the sequel will unfold and will become clear in time. I think The Cloud of Unknowing speaks to this woman…forget the past and look to God…This piece also reminded me of The Giver…

    Keep up your good work!


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