The Tour by Marina Vaysberg
The ceilings are all over. Floors don’t seem to matter. As if we could walk in the air and band our heads under the arches from room to room. Millions of crushed omnipresent tiles are pressed in the cement – an endless artwork of the never tired hand. The tiles hum. The music is unfamiliar, we need to tune in with it and adjust to the dim light and rapid color changes.
Who lived here?
We flow with the air into the library. Two floors, I mean two ceilings are in layers; shelves are holding volumes and volumes. A wooden square faced telephone on the wall with two metal dishes of an inch in diameter for eyes and metal speaker for a mouth, has been mute for nearly a hundred years. The desk lounges by the vast spread of glass of an unshaded window; the paper and an inkwell on it, an arrow drawn clockwise. The story goes around the fireplace face, square plates with protuberant figures of a man in pointy yellow hat and a woman in a blue apron harvesting wheat, then picking red apples, then men in hats shaking hands. We land for a moment. Ponder, follow the storyline.
The curious mind?
Off we fly under the rainbow on the sudden sunbeam to the spacious asymmetrical room that hugs the column in the middle, heavy, caring a far older world; decorated with an even peculiar tiles and mini red clay plates with symbols – a tiny pine trees of letters-needles. The numbers on the top of the column read -2300 BC.
“Cuneiform script, one of the earliest systems of writing” flows in our ears.
We land here for a while on the floor of the first geometrical pattern we have seen in the house; warm colors, cool to step on. Two large windows meet on the corner as having an endless debate on the reflections of each side: the changes in the garden or in the outside world.
The maze of the house takes us to the other levels. A bedroom. Faded colors of the wallpaper, of the bed spread, of the wooden floor; worn off book covers all breathe heavily in the light from the large window. Half fallen lamp lost a battle. Tilted mirror hides from the window, aloof. The crowd of framed pictures lost their emotions. We could understand more about the owner, if to touch, but it is forbidden. We look up: the ceiling is as bright as new, confident. “Cement does not burn.” Around the corner, another bedroom, blue with a garden view. From there we are promised to go down, but instead we tiptoe up. Staircases wonder their own path, don’t seem to follow any standards, but signify their every turn.
“Happy is he who knows the causes of things,” is translated for us from Latin. Moreover “Happy the man who finds the key to open wisdom’s door.”
We have no choice, but to fly their path up and around in the dim again, echo follows us so we are not lonely. The walls are alive with the reflections of light: human figures, faces wink at us, a musical instrument strums non-familiar note; an apple tree, an urn full of apples – a plentitude. Suddenly, there are dog paws pressed in the cement of the narrow staircase that goes almost straight up to the dog quarters, no visitors allowed. The owner stepped out of the house for the last time at 5:30, tall wooden clock confirms, and we imagine him lock the door and walk his way to eternity.
Blue and white change to yellow and red glaze. Flowers, birds and leaves. Sailing boats, zodiacs shoot arrows. Hearts, breakable. Our heads are spinning. We feel the urge to return to the fireplace in the library, as if we forgot something, forgot how we began. It is still there, grounded. “Plus Ultra” shine the tiled letters in rainbow colors on the top front panel, centered by the caring hand, the hand that knew what it was doing in peace with time, in tandem with nature.
“Further beyond,” is translated for us from Latin.
Further beyond we go.
Marina Vaysberg is originally from Kiev, Ukraine, where she had started writing. She completed Iowa University Writers Workshop Three-week Summer Intensive Program in spring of 2020. Marina is an adjunct professor of Russian language in Union College and The College of Saint Rose in upstate NY. She is a librarian, surrounded by books and passionate readers.