The Calm Before the Storm
If I had known, that one week was all that was left, maybe I would have paid attention. If I had known, maybe I would have taken a little more time to care.
But I hadn’t known, as most of us don’t, the path my day, and week would end up taking, a foreign route, bizarre to me, controlled by the forces in a world of which we have no perception, and I had failed to see the big picture, let alone the consequences of anyone else’s actions.
But it’s always in the details, isn’t it? Just those little tattered pieces of information, the love notes to a better time, and a better place, that can hold the key to catching onto the reality of a situation.
It’s in the smell of the grass after the rainfall, wafting through the window you didn’t remember leaving open, teasing your nostrils with the promise of spring. It’s in the click of the clock turning to alarm, as it switches to that God-awful country station you listen to in order to assure you rise from sleep.
It’s in the thick scent of coffee brewing in the morning, sticking to the back of your throat, urging you to rise. Never mind that you didn’t set the timer, and that you never drink coffee.
I should’ve known today and the week that followed wouldn’t be anything I’d ever experienced. I should have clutched those details to my chest and run with them, analyzed them, and used them to protect myself. They practically screamed at me in that calm, still moment before I had even opened my eyes.
“Um, might be my old age catching up with me… but I don’t believe you live here,” I protested, rubbing sleep from my eyes as I padded into the brightly lit kitchen.
My sister looked up at me from the coffee she was brewing, the machine steaming and spitting, and shot me a dirty look from behind a pair of oversized aviators. Dressed in last night’s revelry, complete with torn fishnets, spiked heels and of course, her hangover sunglasses; she looked what only could be described as ‘rough’.
“I was downtown. You’re closer than Reggie’s, and you left your window unlocked. Bad habit you know,” she sipped gently at her freshly poured cup and considered me through the steam.
I made a non-committal noise through my nose and reached around her to pour my own. I ignored the fact that her voice had hitched slightly at the mention of Reggie’s name, a misstep in a long routine I chose to ignore. I turned to face her, leaning against the counter,
“You want to lecture me on bad habits now, huh? Sneaking in windows, crashing on my couch. Next I turn around, you’ll be leaving your clothes and a toothbrush here,” I gesture my cup at her, sloshing droplets across the floor.
Our mutual bad habits had been a frequent discussion many times up until now, and I wasn’t eager to start it all over again. God knows it would only end in something breaking, someone crying, and a disapproving phone call from Mother. No, thank you. She continued to stare at me, challenging me from behind her dark over-sized lenses.
She drains her cup, and drops it, thudding into the sink.
“You’re right, I know. But at least I made the coffee,” her face brightened behind the glasses.
I took a sip and grimaced. I remembered now why I didn’t drink it.
“Well, best be onward and outward. I am sure Mother will be expecting me to be snug in my bed when she makes the morning rounds,” she sashays across the kitchen tile, tottering on the slightly too-high heels, through the adjoining living room and heads for the front door.
Having so skillfully climbed through the window last night, no doubtfully drunk, I questioned whether I should ask her to leave the way she came – if only to get a last parting rise from her. She unlocks the door and strides off down the stairs, wiggling her fingers in a goodbye over her shoulder. As I begin to shut the door behind her, I hear a snort coming from under the bay window and I turn abruptly toward the sound. A tall, dark-clothed man seemed to be snoozing on my couch; feet tucked up and his head on a throw pillow. I pause, turn back to the door and throw it open.
“Forgetting something? I don’t want to keep it!”
She turned at my voice and continued walking backwards, putting a hand against her brow to shield her eyes behind the glasses from the hot morning sun. I could feel it beating off the still-wet sidewalk, an unusually hot day for the time of year.
She shrugged, holding her hand to her ear and scrunching up her face. She waved at me once more and was promptly on her way. I huffed, and quietly closed the door. I wish this hadn’t been the first time she’d left a bad date on my couch. More than one awkward conversation had occurred in my living room after a vanishing Clara. It had usually resulted in a hurried attempt to abandon ship as quickly as possible, his walk of shame in buttoned dress shirts and crumpled ties. Not to mention the one memorable morning with the one who spent four hours crying out his life story at my kitchen table. The click of the latch seemed to echo through the now-oddly quiet house. I turned back towards the couch, determined to oust this errant Sleeping Beauty, and usher him on his Clara-less way.
Problem was, Sleeping Beauty was gone. Presumably awake, but definitely gone.