The Stone House and the Shack

When I got married, I said the same vows with the same good intentions that everyone else does.  I was in love and I meant it when I said "for better or worse" and "until death do us part".  I looked into the intelligent hazel eyes of my new husband, and I was ready to work to build a strong stone home with him.  We were going to show the world how it was done; we were going to overcome the legacy of my parents' divorce, of our grandparents' unhappy marriages.  

We had dreamed of crafting our marriage into a comfortable home; resilient - with carefully masoned stone blocks; stable - on a meticulously laid foundation. And we had talked about how to maintain it together: stay ahead of the leaks, repair the cracks, update the windows, build future additions.  He is an engineer and craftsman, I am an artist, and I could only imagine us building something beautiful, efficient and comfortable.  I was excited to build that home, that future, with him.  

And when I sorrowfully remember those dreams and plans, I do not recognize the marriage we built.  

It's eight years later.  We wanted to build a strong stone home together ... but I find myself crouched in front of a dilapidated shack. Splintered boards are hanging loose, the uneven porch is sagging, and stained sheets of plyboard have been crookedly nailed over the first floor windows.  Inside, the walls are furred with black mold from unchecked leaks; drafts whistle through unrepaired chinks in the walls; slime-like water drips through the holes in the bowed roof.  When I walk inside, termite-chewed boards crack under my feet and broken banister spokes are carelessly duct-taped at odd angles.  The air is thick with dust and the stale smell of abandonment; this is not a home - it's a condemned hovel.

My heart aches to see our dreams so pitifully unrepresented.  What happened to us?  To our dreams, our blueprints?  This is not the structure we set out to build.  We were going to work together to craft something sturdy and beautiful.  But now, eight years later, and this lean-to is all we have to show for it?  We were going to show them all how beautiful a marriage could be ... my God, what happened?

I moved out of that crumbling shack back in September.  I needed space to heal, to think, to figure out what to do.  Would I move back in to this rickety heap with him?  Could we remodel and salvage it with enough demolition and grit?  Or is it beyond repair?  For weeks, I agonized over the blueprints, now tear-stained and scribbled with frantic notes.  Years of decay - could it be reversed?  I had to make a judgment and act upon it: rebuild or restart.

And I made my choice.  After I left, and he started to look hard at our fragile shack with swiss cheese walls, he assured me that we could rebuild it; but, with many tears, I disagreed.  I condemned the shack we had built.  It will not be resurrected - it will be razed.

So here I am, in front of this abandoned ramshackle building, alone and holding a lit torch.  Tears streak down my cheeks, splashing onto the thirsty cracked dirt of this ghost town.  I have made my choice, but it is still a deeply sorrowful choice.  Who wants to burn down what they worked so hard to build?

I carefully walk up to the empty face of the house, appearing slack-jawed behind the sag of the porch.  This poor dilapidated weather-beaten shack - we had dreams of making this into so much more.  The hot light of the torch reflects in the shine of my wet cheeks as I tip the flames toward the house.  Orange and red tongues dance on the torch head, then leap to the boards and hungrily lick up the dry splinters.  I stand back and watch the flames crawl up the siding and in through the walls. And, just for a moment, the firelight fills the dead eyes of the empty windows, as though only a warm fireplace glowed inside.  But the teeth of the fire lunged up and bit brightly onto the windowsills, spewing black clouds into the air.  I stand in the grassless front yard and watch it burn, flakes of white ash falling into my dark hair as I cry and cry and cry.


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