This morning I awoke with a jolt to find myself on the couch, still in my coat, with Girl from the East wrapped in my arms. She, too, was still in her jacket. Two hours earlier I had arrived home after a crosstown trek to Girl from the West’s school.
Instead of firing up the coffee pot and making breakfast, I just gave in to my exhaustion and flopped onto the couch, pulling an afghan over both of us. In the gauzy light of pre-dawn, we both slipped easily into a deep sleep.
Then, I awaken in my house-that-is-not-my-house, but more closely resembles a hovel. Translate that to my worst nightmare: trash heaped everywhere, moldy bathrooms, bugs scuttling about, leaks.
And in some oddly symbolic way, all the windows are deliberately blocked. One window is painted over. I recoil in horror, wondering how I’d overlooked this. Another window sash was raised and toys and clothes were stuffed between the panes. In a panic, I run from room to room, hysterically trying to fix whatever is wrong, like the angry fish in the cup yelling at The Cat in the Hat.
I hear the squeak of the deadbolt lock turning on our back door, which means the husband is home. In his hands is a big cardboard box. Symbolic of course, of a job layoff. He opens his hands and lets the box drop to the floor, blasting dust and debris in all directions.
Overcome with exhaustion and despair, I topple to the floor, sobbing as my throat swells shut. I attempt to speak, to say what is wrong, but can’t get out any sounds.
Husband bends to grab his box and turns to head up a staircase right before me. A staircase I’d never noticed before. Right there the whole time. The door at the top opens and sunlight spills down the steps. I creep up a few risers to get a better view.
Above is a gleaming, beautiful kitchen with liquid-shiny tiles and clean counter tops. There is fresh fruit in bowls, vibrant plants, sparkling windows. This sliver of a view hints at the comfort and order that must make up the rest of the home.
But I cannot go any higher, I’m told by a figure who stands at the top of the stairs. Someday, when I’m ready to make some changes, I can live up there. Until then, I must stay where I’m at.
So, I’m thinking:
A: I need to get more sleep at night.
B: I need to drink less coffee.
C: I need to stop watching Swiffer commercials.