Where the inside of my mind leaks onto the screen.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Stories from the Bathroom Drawer

This story isn't mine to tell.

If it was, you'd be sorely disappointed to read about a life you've no doubt experienced.  Maybe not firsthand, but if I'm not just like you, I'm probably just like your sister, or your neighbor, or your best friend from 3rd grade.

My story is too typical for setting to matter and too bland to invite figurative language.  Were even the greatest of authors to try, you'd read nothing but cliche'.

For all it's predictability, however, my story could be told by anyone.  It belongs to the world - to all the people who've lived it before and to those who don't know they're living it now.  And it could be told, I could never say, "Wait.  That was mine alone to tell."

But this story?  It happened only once.  To her.  And it is hers to tell.  Or it is hers to keep.  Or so it should have been.

This story isn't mine to tell.

-- CHAPTER 1  --

Even though the houses sit too close together, elbows touching at the neighborhood table, each house is its own universe.  Everyone was given the same set of building blocks but no plans, and so every universe is unique.

Some universes have both father and mother.  And together or apart they built with jobs and kids, pets and hobbies, religion and culture and mistakes.  Truths and lies and a whole lot of in between.  It all came from that same construction set, but no two are alike.

In her universe, she is the mother.  The wife.  And they built their universe around her.  She connects the father to the children.  She connects the children to the religion.  And more literally, she connects the dog to his leash, the lunch to its box, five sets of teeth biannually to the dentist.  She connects the money to the creditors, the children to their beds.  It is overwhelming, but she built it this way.

Before she came here, she was the daughter.  In that universe were two islands: the father with his work and his money and his friends, and the mother with her purses and her society and her depression.  On a tenuous tightrope between the two stood the daughter.  To walk toward one was always to walk away from the other, and so she stayed.  Switzerland.  She sat in the middle with her homework and her boyfriends and her insecurities, and she rarely got so much as a sideways glance from either island.

So she built her universe carefully, like a web that flowed outward from her.  And she never left it.  When she moved, her universe stretched and bent and moved with her.  And when she stayed, she wrapped a protective arm around it to make sure it could not grow beyond her reach.

Three times a day, the universe stretched.  At 7:45, she drove the 15 minutes to drop the boy off at his charter school.  Again at 9:50, she headed out, this time to drive the preschool carpool with the girl and her two best friends.  At 3, she picked up the boy, and she felt secure knowing most of her universe was safe.  At 5:00 pm sharp, the husband returned, and the universe felt whole.

And one evening a month, she ventured out to book club.  But the universe followed her there in the form of texts, "Should the boy know the sight word, 'do'?" and "Come home soon.  The baby will not sleep for me."

And while the other wives complained, "I can't believe he can't just take care of it," she was glad.  She was the center of her universe.

Hm... kind of wish I'd finished that, since now I'm dying to know the story!

Also kind of glad I left it in a notebook in my bathroom drawer (which probably means I wrote it in the bathtub one day) so I could rediscover it years later.