It was a long but okay day. I got quite a bit of work done at the office, went to Whole Foods on my lunch and picked up ingredients for dinner, and beat the traffic getting home. Win all around.
When I got in the house, my daughter was asleep in her bed. The trash had not been taken out and dishes were still in the sink. I made a conscious decision not to argue with her. She had been at her dad’s house since Friday and today was Tuesday. Things had been left on a sour note and, although I was not going to budge on my insistence she show more respect, I wasn’t in the mood for another argument. My mother would say, “Pick your battles.”
I unpacked the groceries, sliced the veggies and got them on the stove before heading to my room to change. As I pulled a gray Texans t-shirt over my head, my phone clinked the slot machine sound that indicates the arrival of a text message. I grabbed it off the bed and pressed my thumb against the sensor. My ex.
The teen was late to class today. Again. I sat wearily on the edge of the bed with a sigh. “What are we going to do?” I texted. Ten minutes later, despite trading several messages, and no closer to a solution than when I picked up the phone, I noticed a strange smell.
“Shit!” I left the veggies on the stove. In the kitchen, I grabbed the pan off the stove and stuck it under the faucet. I was trying to sauté my onions and peppers the healthy way, using only water, no butter or oil. Apparently, they burn a lot faster that way. In disgust, I tried to pick out the salvageable pieces. My compost pile grew quickly as only a few slices made it into my bowl.
The teenager came down the hallway, “What’s that smell?”
“I burned the onions and peppers I was cooking.”
“Oh. Glad I’m not hungry.”
“Huh? I thought you were starving? You texted me when you got home about dinner.”
“Oh, yeah. I’m not hungry anymore. I ate some corndogs.”
She took a drink out of the fridge and started back to her room. I stared at her back as she walked away. What the fuck do I even try for?
I leaned my head against the vent hood over the stove and picked out a charred piece of green pepper. Then a piece of onion. I could feel the prickling of tears at the back of my eyes but they wouldn’t come. My hands started to shake. I clenched my fist and the piece of green pepper turned to mush between my fingers. I flung it on the stove and stared.
The liquor rack held only two bottles, both nearly empty. I hardly ever drank any more. I took a minute maid from the refrigerator and poured it into a cup simultaneously with the vodka. Three gulps and the cup was drained. Fuck dinner.
I sat on the end of the couch and put my feet up. The remote was next to me so I turned the tv on. Wheel of Fortune. My grandmother used to watch it religiously. She loved Pat and Vanna. I usually called her when I got off work but I knew better than to call when “The Wheel” was on. The clue was a crossword. I watched some guy named Anthony lose all his money and a trip to Italy by landing on “bankrupt” before Carol solved it with only one letter left in the puzzle.
It was depressing. I turned it off and looked around the living room. I took in the out-of-season wreath on the wall that should have come down months ago, but for some reason I never bothered; the bookcase filled with history books, children’s books, books on religion and travel books; and the lamps on the end tables. The shades were too small. I needed to replace them but….. and then I saw it. A hole. Oddly shaped and not very big, but a hole nonetheless. I don’t remember what made it exactly, some flying object or another. But the feelings it brings are unmistakable. My heart beat increases, my stomach tenses up. I look away quickly. It’s just a hole. It can’t hurt me. He can’t hurt me. I am safe. No one is going to wake me up screaming in the middle of the night. I don’t have to argue any more. I close my eyes and take a deep breath.
I feel something cold and jerk. My dog has pressed her wet nose against my foot. I look at her and sigh. “Come on girl. Let’s go for a walk. I’ll think about this tomorrow.”