I don’t know much. I don’t remember much. I actually can do nothing. That is the truth. Until recently I wasn’t expecting anything and I also didn’t want anything. I was, it was enough.
I’m an old man, I started to feel it insistently every part of my existence. The wooden planks from which I’m done, are moving away from each other more and more, letting rays of the sunshine in. I’m getting brighter. I get to know myself from the inside. However, with the sun more and more dirt, dust, sand and soil get to my inner parts. I guess this is the price you pay for the opportunity to look into your inwardness.
I feel that right now the time has come to tell my story. It seems to me that I’m more than a hundred years, but I’m not entirely sure. Only recently I realized that there is something what other people call time. There is… time… – What does it mean? Earlier, that isn’t now, I didn’t think about it, it didn’t matter for me. Something like earlier or later didn’t exist, it didn’t have to. For a long time everything was now and when it went over the present, it disappeared. That it’s not really like that, my two friends helped me realize – the pumps in size 36. I learned anyhow much more from them. They told me about the world that is beyond and higher than three inches above me.
I exist at Wiklinowa Street No. 9. That I also know from my friends, because my nature never allows myself to go outside. Outside is for me a very intriguing concept. For many years, my whole world was a ground floor of a tenement and the only thing that identifies me is my being, nothing more than that matters.
I’m the third stair on the steps of the ground floor. When I appeared in the tenement, I had the colour of the wood, from which I was made. I think so, because since that time all of us were repeatedly repainted. However, the longer I’m thinking, the less I’m sure. In my opinion memorizing such information didn’t matter. Now I regret it. I do know for sure that I’m made of oak wood. How do I know it? Stairs just know it.
Below me there’re two stairs and above twelve, I guess, but as far my eyesight can’t approach, so I have to take my friends word for it, who know about fourteen. Sometimes I try to count their steps and from this conclude how many of us are, but my hearing isn’t so good anymore and they often stop, so I get lost in my calculations. Does the amount matter? One more or two less? Would the steps be the same if I wasn’t there?
On the ground floor there’re six doors. One leads to outside and behind the remaining five live shoes. I never met them better, because they almost never use the stairs. Above me there’re certainly much more doors. I guess it from the number of shoes that meet with me every day. In my opinion I know them quite well, even though we don’t talk too often. I know who live here and who come here only occasionally. Now I pay attention to everything, what happens on and around me. Memorizing has become the essence of my existence. Just as before, it was forgetfulness.
I remember that here are some black lacquered shoes in the size 42, which still walk in the company of an umbrella spike. They always come clean and shiny, but they are becoming less and less certain. The person who uses them must exist already for a long time, my friends explained it to me. Supposedly, when shoes gets older, they use an umbrella or walking stick to lean on it. I mean, not when the shoes get older, but when the a human being that lives in them. Still I am mixing up everything. Not so long ago the lacquered shoes, size 42 stopped just at me and the umbrella stuck so deep that I can feel it up to now.
I see also the plimsolls. You can’t get on at all with them, they move very quickly and always are in a hurry. Sometimes they don’t even have time to step on many stairs. Maybe for them the amount isn’t important. The fifth step says that the plimsolls threw something on him and it remains with him forever. Despite the regular washing. Exciting! Regular washing. Yes, all the stairs like it. In many matters we don’t agree, but in this one we never quarrel. We usually are washed by slippers, not shoes. This is a the king of a footwear, which is very soft. They are very nice to talk, but it’s hard to make friends, because on the day when the washing is done, every time come different, new. At first, we’re swept from sand and soil, then we’re wiped by a wet cloth. This material smells better. It’s a pleasant surprise by what is ordinary, everyday…. and with time it becomes extraordinary. I didn’t want to lose anything, overlook what is important. The fact that the slippers never go out of the sixth door, leading to outside is fascinating, just like me.
There are many shoes. There’re ones on stiletto heel, which go quickly and touch us only by the toes. Rarely we see heels. It happens that the shoes on the heels come with other, different and then those who associate, go away alone. The shoes have strange habits.
Those thick-soled shuffle. I’m not afraid of them, but along with them go four paws. This is a real torment for all of the stairs and each individually. They have really weird habits. Those snarling creatures which have paws are so annoying, a real pain in the neck!
For a long time I stuck in the belief that the shoes are creatures that inhabit the interior of the tenement house. Thanks to my friends I realized that into the shoes come creatures who are actually living behind the doors. From my point of view it’s complicated… The ability to change the place gives them a sort of right to regard this place as their own. Instability and continuous changeability make the ownership. Why not this what is permanent? But I muse and come to the conclusion that it’s my instability that gives us, the stairs, greater rights. We lead, set the direction and help to get up to anyone who stand on us.
When the pumps told me that everything around is changing, moving that there is a world outside, I remembered all the events from my past. Once came back to me, my own once.
It was at night, around me was darkness, a long time ago, almost at the very beginning of my existence. I remember a nice calm until the moment when some heavy leather shoes ran by us. I had a premonition that they were bad. A moment later, the other shoes run down the stairs, trying not to make any noise. Now it seems to me that we also tried so that nobody heard those shoes, although I’m not sure why. Then I didn’t hear completely anything, no steps and suddenly… I felt the energy flowing through me. After a while this feeling went away. Now I know that one of those creatures, who live in the shoes stood on me. In fact, it wasn’t wearing them. My friends say that it’s possible but happens very rarely. Later on the heavy shoes went down with a group of others and they never returned.
It’s fascinating that something what is happening now can trigger a memoirs of what happened in the past. This awareness filled me with hope that I will recollect this what I had once ignored. Recently the shoes, size 37 have stopped on me. There were quite ordinary, gentle, on the flat heel and stamp on the four paws, which didn’t want to go upstairs. This stamp recollects me another event from the past.
It’s late, gloomy and cold. I was touched by the shoes, size 43, a little neglected. I felt that I didn’t like them. They stand for a moment and then stamp and their creature inside them was screaming something. Then they turned and left. As soon as I dropped out of sight, other shoes stand on me, maybe even the same which recently threatened to the four paws. They were standing motionlessly and suddenly just like the bigger ones they stamped, turned and went upstairs. I didn’t understand anything of it. I thought they were just talking to each other. Now I know that it was something else – leaving. I talked with my friends and they explained me everything. Once the bigger, stamping shoes and those smaller more gentle used to live together, they were very significant to each other. Unfortunately, one day those bigger apparently found a better place and they left there. I heard that those which stayed here suffered a lot. So leaving hurts. I think I can already imagine it. You leave with stamping and suffering. Leaving is loud. The shoes leave, they are gone and the time passes.
The time isn’t important for us, what is important are dimensions, everyone knows it. The stair can’t be too high, shoes would be distressed, and moving with a difficulty. It should not be too low, because there would be much more of us and the shoes would have to make a lot of effort. Each step should be between 5 and 8 inches of height, neither more nor less. None of us can be too narrow, it should be between 10 and 14 inches of length. Because each shoe without any exception should be able to stop for a moment.
We all are the same and we know about it. How? This is how the nature of the stairs is. Although the sameness, disputes about which of us is the most important, don’t go quiet. The point is that despite my amazement we do it every day. The first stair believes that it is the most important, because everything begins from this one, it claims that if he hadn’t been there, none of us would exist. In my opinion it’s an absurd, if there wouldn’t be the first one, in his position there would be another one. Perhaps then the second one would be the first, and I the second? It is not my intention to consider what would happen if… I only want to tell about this what I know.
Yesterday I heard how the fifth stair was shouting that the ninth one was in half replaced, because it had a hole. The holes don’t bode anything good. The chinks belonging to me are getting bigger and bigger and probably they create our grief. The first one isn’t also in a good condition, maybe it’s valid makes him so exhausted. The second one looks a little better, but from all of us in the best condition is the fourth one. He says that the shoes skip him.
At the beginning of our relationship, my friends told me that the creature which lives inside them is almost as old as we, stairs are. Then I began to realize what time is. The creature that lives inside my friends moves very slowly in this way we have so much time to talk with the pumps. The time is like air, when it is let in, through the outside door, nobody can stop it!
The pumps have informed me that when they appear in the house of its creature, they stood motionless next to other shoes. They were with its creature but it didn’t live in them, it’s a bit strange, but now I find out a lot of weird things. When my friends told me about their predecessors, I knew who it was. I realized that I had once met them and that the creature remains the same, it only changed the shoes. I wanted to recollect everything, but sometimes it’s so tough, especially that once I didn’t try to remember anything. I didn’t know that you have to. If the creature of my friends is here for such a long time, I should have known its other shoes. Recollecting is hard… I think they used to be sport shoes, which stumbled at me, but then I started to doubt it and I don’t know. Perhaps it were a tiny baby shoes a long time ago, but actually… I didn’t remember neither of them. Besides even now I don’t think any of such visit me. Someday, perhaps… It’s a pity that at the beginning of my existence I didn’t know what I know now. Everything occurred to me quite superficially, I wasn’t burdened by anything. It was the charm of unawareness.
For the stair the most important is the shape. The cubic perfection in order not to be narrower or wider than the one above and with certainty than the one below you. All together, all are dependent to each other and every is alone. It is very difficult to talk with the stairs above. Each protects its interests and I don’t have anybody with whom I could discuss my revelation. I suffer from singularity in our nature of multiplicity. So far my existence was connected only with the inside of the tenement house, which was very specifically defined, for them is still is…
However, there is something different in the nature of stairs, in my nature. I fight with it since the moment when I started to follow my memoirs. The order is most important. Perhaps it’s so much important, because it’s constant. It gives you a place in a row; the most important and indisputable, your certainty of existence – Number! The stair which is second will never be the third one and the fourth one won’t be the second. The place that we gained thanks to the one who created us, can’t change. The stairs in front claim that they’re the most important, while those at the end that they’re and we can’t figure out whether the first is the best or maybe the twelfth one… The stairs are still arguing. Especially that the first never talked with the last, because they’re far away from each other. The worst however is the sixth. Not only does he quarrel the most and longest but also, what is worse, he claims to be the seventh one. It makes the seventh furious. This conflict lasts forever. I’m starting to feel that infinity exists as the argument of the stairs. The sixth says that without doubt he is the most important, because all the shoes use him and if they stop, they do it on him. He claims that he’s to be the seventh, because he’s perfect and only those odd are the real stairs. Nonsense! It bothers me, but now I’m more occupied with everything beyond, not to prove which is the most important.
I recollect something else… The one-sided shoes were here, what happens very rarely. They come in and never go out. They were one-sided, very slow and additionally tiny. They didn’t speak anything, stopped on me, probably they stopped on every stair and silently left. Never again have I seen them. Why they didn’t come out? I didn’t understand anything of it. Only the pumps explained me that those are the shoes of the youngest creatures and I thought that none of them walk on me, but they did… They can go up, but can’t go down, isn’t it exciting?
I’m not quarrelling, I know that there’re many different activities that are much more interesting than arguing, for instance, talking with your friends. They know so much and have seen so much. Now they’re telling me where they go for walks. It’s fascinating. They get to know many various places and those places are innumerable. Wonderful unaccountability! I can’t imagine it yet, various places and unaccounted amount…anything. Maybe I’ll start from imaging unaccounted amount of stairs. It should work. Then I’ll try with some from outside.
The lacquered shoes, size 42 left. They didn’t come back too… They stopped on me, stuck me an umbrella and for the first time started talking. They talked about what is on the outside, about the glossy stairs made of stone, after which they step today. We talked very long, the shoes were very worrying that something wrong is with their creature. They were right. Suddenly they turned and then the creature in them took the railing and slowly slid down on the fifth stair. This person leaned its head on the wall and sighed quietly. The umbrella, rustling, collapsed on the floor in front of the first stair. The pumps explained me what happened. It’s leaving – the end of the creature. The shoes weren’t needed anymore… the stairs also, so may leaving also be so quiet? With a sign and that’s over. Those who screamed and stamped seem me so… appropriate, the most appropriate. Well, again, I don’t understand. It seemed that I understand and there is still so many things to understand. For example, the amount of shoes that appeared after the leaving of the creature, living in lacquered. They came in and went down, stopped and sighed, but those in size 42 waited patiently until others carried by another creature, went down.
Sometimes the concern whether I could understand everything overlaps me. How to sort out the whole knowledge about this what comes from outside? Does remembering makes sense if it hurts so much, and recollect… It has to be important.
There’re so many things behind me, so many are gone. The new one will come.
Will I listen, be able to remember?
Picture © Ewa Kieńko-Gawlik. Schody.