My life is officially a routine. Wake up at 5:00 am, get ready, go to the hospital, pick-up Mom, bring her home, stop for a $4 gourmet latte, go to the office. Leave at 5:00 pm. Come home. Take Mom to the hospital. Leave her there. Come home (sometimes with wine). Repeat.
Tonight is a wine night. As I lay on the navy blue couch, huddled under a layer of blankets, I survey the room. The fireplace mantle is lined with photos of Desi Niece. I am not sure if it is my niece specifically or children in general, but she can instantly change my mood from glum to glad. As I come closer and closer to an age where I am unwilling to have babies (40, because of health complications, infertility, etc., etc.,), I sometimes wonder if I want children for me or for some sort of societal expectation.
Across the room is another navy couch with fluffy cushions identical to the one I am nestled against. Two matching over-stuffed armchairs are squeezed into the remaining corners of the room. Nesting tables and a jungle of money plants line the wall behind me. Directly in front of me is my mother’s larger than life-sized (literally it is taller than she is) 54” Sony projection screen television blaring the late edition of the local news.
“Well, Mike and Julie, from the KARE 11 backyard, it has been –20 degrees Fahrenheit or colder in the Twin Cities now for over 80 hours.” The blonde meteorologist stands against a sea of white snow and her breath is a lingering grey puff of air. Her cheeks have reddened two shades and her blue eyes are on the verge of watering. I doubt she’s even warm in her black wool coat, hat, scarf and mittens. Who in their right mind lives here? And why? Every time I think I’ll leave Manhattan, I remember this weather and immediately change my mind. I’d rather be poor in the City, than frozen in the suburbs.
Slowly I pull one hand out from under the covers and reach for the cheap Australian wine. Condensation has formed on the glass. I really should drink red wine. Even in a heated house while wearing two sweatshirts, fleece pants and socks, it is too cold for white wine. With a whoosh the furnace kicks on and momentarily scares me. I miss the comforting sound of water rattling through the old pipes of my radiator. Wine drips down my chin and I set the glass aside.
When I am alone in this house, the combination of twenty-four windows, half of which are at ground level, and three doors leave me feeling vulnerable. The police refer to this section of my parents’ suburb as Sleepy Hollow because it is free of beatings, break-ins, murders, or muggings. They send a cruiser out every now and then to ensure people still live here. This is why my practical parents see no need for a security system that I so desperately wish they’d install.
I take one last sip and lay my head against the cushion. I close my eyes and slowly my heart feels like it is beating in reverse, moving from my chest into my back. Every thought leaves my mind. Sick dad. Cold state. Stupid Dr. Froggy. Empty house. I breathe slowly. I am weightless. The dull throb of fear gives way to release, escape, and finally sleep.