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If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb;

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2 December 2020

I think I can say that I have finally gotten used to the holidays.

My first December upon returning to England was strange. Matthew Rose Sorensen’s family did not expect me to give them anything the first year I returned—which was good, as I did not know much about the holiday season to begin with. I learned all about it, about Father Christmas and Jesus and mistletoe, things that Matthew Rose Sorensen must have known but only existed in my mind as half-formed memories that Piranesi finds terribly silly. Why do they need a day for gift-giving? he asks. If you have something you wish to give someone, you give it to them when you see them!

So, I spent the holidays with them—learning, listening, paying attention, trying to learn more about these people. I learned when to nod when they mentioned a story I could not remember, how to respond evasively when they asked about the House, and how to smile so they didn’t question me. It was tiring. But it made them happy, so I continued to do it.

I spent December 2019 with Raphael. I knew Matthew Rose Sorensen’s family better than before, but I still felt worried they would find my gifts inadequate. He knew these people for all of his life. I had just barely met them. Still, they seemed to like what I gave them and I liked what they gave me, though I suspect Matthew Rose Sorensen would have liked them more.

I gave Raphael a pair of shoes. They bent well, they had a good grip, and I know they would be useful when she visited the House. There are so many places that are a little too slippery, places where I know you shouldn’t step or you should be careful traversing, but that Raphael still has yet to learn. I tell her about the places that she might encounter, but I do not know where she goes when she visits on her own. It is possible she’s reached one of the more dangerous Rooms already.

She gave me a set of ink pens that Christmas. They wrote very well, dried quickly, and did not bleed through the paper. They’re perfect for my journals and so I have almost used them all up. I should ask her where she purchased them. Matthew Rose Sorensen’s family gave me a new suit, some books, and some journals. Aside from the journals, I feel these are gifts more for him than myself. But I cannot complain. I know that my gifts that year were absolutely terrible and so, I resigned myself to do better.

Of course, now that I have gotten used to the holidays, something strange has happened so that I cannot show the world I have figured it out. I cannot meet with Matthew Rose Sorensen’s family and smile and say “look! I understand now! Here are some things so I can show you I care!” as these days, it is less safe to go outside. I spend most of my time these days in the small flat I live in by myself or in the House.

I’m not sure what I will do for the holidays this year. But I feel I must do something.

8 December 2020

Though I am not Piranesi, I find myself doing some of the things he did when he explored the House. I mark the tides. I visit the statues. I gather seaweed. These are things that I don’t need to do anymore but as they say, old habits die hard.

I visit the Dead as well. Logically, I know that one of them must be Sylvia D’Agostino just as one must be Stanley Ovenden. If I had to guess, I would say they would be some of the People of the Alcove. But I don’t want to give one of the Dead the wrong name, so I just leave that thought to myself.

And it is on one of those visits, earlier today, that I decide on a way to celebrate the holidays. The fish leather twine holding the bones of the Biscuit-Box Man together threatens to break. I had started to get the supplies to make some myself before I remembered. I am no longer reliant on solely what I have in the House or reliant on the Other to bring me useful items. I can get things myself. I can get things for all of the Dead.

And so, I do.

12 December 2020

The modern world is full of so many conveniences! I still need to stay in the house, but when I leave to purchase groceries, I purchase gifts as well. They are nothing extravagant—just simple things, things I know the Dead would like. Most of the presents I can find at the grocery store or the hardware store. But some of them have to be found elsewhere. One or two of them I have to order online.

I’ve gotten used to all these conveniences. No longer do I have to try and make my own string or make my own leather, I can simply go to the store and stare down tens and hundreds of different types of string. It is wonderful and terrifying at the same time. I thought string was just string. Now I know it can be wax-coated or polypropylene or jute twine or sisal rope or mason line or fishing wire or embroidery floss. I spend almost half an hour thinking about what string the Biscuit-Box Man would want before deciding on my purchase.

In the House, Piranesi was limited by what he had. He crafted and experimented and tried to make do with what he had. I don’t mind having choices. In fact, I quite like it. If my glasses break and I cannot repair them, then I simply buy a new pair. But a part of me wonders if it were better if things were simple—if the string I used was whatever I could make instead of spending half an hour staring at twenty different options.

Matthew Rose Sorensen must have been used to choices. Piranesi had to make do with a lack of choices. I think I exist somewhere in the middle.

25 December 2020

A List of the House’s Dead and the Presents Each of Them Received

  • The Biscuit Box Man: I have tied his box shut with a stronger string. The man at the hardware store said that this brand could take a lot of wear and tear and, most importantly, could easily get wet. I have also placed the biscuit box inside of a larger, plastic container, supposedly waterproof. I do not visit the House as often as I did when I resided in its walls as it’s child. If something were to happen or a storm were to start, I might not be able to bring the Dead to higher ground. This would keep him safe.
  • The Concealed Person: This member of the Dead was the hardest to find a present for. After all, I cannot remove them from their alcove. After much thought, I decided to buy a small light. It has a motion sensor so that if something moves past it, it lights up. I know that the Dead cannot see and that the Concealed Person will get no joy from the light. But I like to imagine that if another bird shows up and flies near this alcove, the light would turn on and the bird could see them. It is like saying “look! I am here! I am not forgotten!”
  • The People of the Alcove: Each person of the alcove gets their own distinct bracelet. It is not much, but it is something that is theirs. It was a challenge finding bracelets of different materials and colors, but I think I have succeeded. They also get many large blankets. Only one store had a blanket that was waterproof: these are the gifts I had to order. I give them enough blankets that I can lay them on top of the People of the Alcove and keep them warm. As the outside is waterproof, the blanket also keeps them dry. Some People have to share a blanket, but I do not think they will mind. Still, I whisper apologies to those that have to share.
  • The Folded-Up Child: Matthew Rose Sorensen’s sister has a child about this age. I have met her a few times, at past gatherings and family holidays. She calls me Uncle Matthew and I do not correct her. Now that I know more children, now that I have seen them play and laugh and smile at the world, this Child saddens me even more than she did before. She was so young. I gift her a necklace featuring characters from a show that Matthew Rose Sorensen’s niece likes. I carefully drape it over her neck, next to her necklace of coral beads and fishbone. And I gift her an apology. I am so sorry. You were so young.

Piranesi is delighted with joy at the gifts I have given. I suspect Matthew Rose Sorensen would view the thing with wry amusement. As for myself, I am happy. It surprises me, how something as simple as giving someone a gift, doing something as practical as purchasing a waterproof blanket can make someone so happy. But it does, and I am.

I spend the rest of Christmas in the House.

I know that some may find it worrisome to spend the holidays alone. My therapist will frown on her tiny little video screen, Raphael will worry though she will not say anything, and Matthew Rose Sorensen’s family will give me nothing but ‘if only’ and ‘we wish.’ To those people, I simply smile and shake my head. I am in the House. I am in my House. I am never truly alone.