I was thinking the other day, of a book I read for school, a long, long time ago. Much longer than it feels like. Actually, if I recall correctly, I read it twice: once for a high school class and again for another class in college. More because I was a good kid and felt the need to refresh my memory than because I’d actually enjoyed reading the book in the first place. Anyhow, I was thinking about this book, in which the protagonist never really gets to speak for herself. All the reader gets is people talking about her, conveying her words through memories made misty by time. And to be quite honest, they’re not people who really liked her very much in the first place, at least if I remember the book right.
Anyhow, I thought it was only fair to give her a shot at speaking for herself, even if it’s only a small one. I could be wrong…. but I took a chance anyway. Those of you who have read the book should recognize this. Those who haven’t will just have to be confused.
It is strange, to me, how a ghost can occupy a home so much more thoroughly than its living occupants. Not that Heathcliff is a ghost. Indeed, I am certain that he is hale and strong and healthy, wherever he is. It is only my memories and thoughts of him that keep him here with me. People would, if they knew what I was thinking, tell me that he is the next thing to a brother to me and that I should not think of him so.
But I’ve never liked people very much.
Therefore I am disinclined to share my thoughts with them, much less value their opinions of those thoughts. Heathcliff is no more my brother than the mouse that lives under the stairs is my cousin. We may have dwelt beneath the same roof, but he was never a brother to me.
I think of him often. Daily, even. More so than I think of my husband. My husband, were you to ask, feels a good deal more to me like a brother than Heathcliff does, or indeed than my own brother does. For at least my husband has cared for me, has tried to take care of me, as much as he could. Our relations, when we had them, upon the occasion of our marriage, felt to me much like the peckings of a curious and well-intentioned bird….
Regardless of the bird’s intentions, the experience cannot help but be uncomfortable and thoroughly unpleasant.
And then the bird wonders why one does not invite it back into one’s bed, as though one were desirous of being pecked often, and with great alacrity. I shudder at the thought. I have feigned illness, more often than I ought to have done, to avoid such peckings. Perhaps I have not feigned it, for more such experiences would inevitably have produced an illness of the mind, if not of the body.
I imagine an evening with Heathcliff would be entirely different. No diffident pecking. I can only imagine the feeling of safety in the circle of his arms. Safety such as I have not felt since he left. I long for him in ways I have never longed for my pale shadow of a husband, who tiptoes around me, as if I am a delicate tulip and he fears one stray step will cause me to shed my petals and fall to pieces.
Heathcliff would not baby me so. He would shake me and tell me to come back to myself, with no regard whatsoever for my petals. Perhaps that is what I need.
Perhaps my petals could do with a bit of a breeze.
But my husband is certainly not the man to do it, if such a dandy as he can even be called a man.
Heathcliff haunts our home as surely as any true spirit. My thoughts of him spill from my heart, filling all of the cold, empty spaces around me, as I wish he was here to fill the spaces, with his heat and passion. I wonder if Edgar feels it. I suspect he does, but there is nothing he can do about it.
What can he do?
Forbid me to think?
A smile curls my lips as I imagine Edgar storming into my bedroom and forbidding me to ever think of Heathcliff again. I bite back a laugh.
This is his home. It will always be Edgar’s home, no matter how long I dwell in it. He can forbid me many things. He can take my food, my blankets, my clothes, my books. But he cannot take my mind. My thoughts will always be my own.
I smile, comfortable in myself, if not in this horrid, drafty old place. I wrap myself tighter in the blanket, press closer to the window, and think of Heathcliff.