Two clocks, out of sync, beat out time on the white wall. The rhythm reminds me of that tell-tale heart, driving a little crazy into my head with each stroke. I tear up toilet paper to plug my ears, to escape into white noise and imaginary music but then I stopped hiding. After a month of suspended solitude in this empty house, the beat becomes a comfort. It’s like a familiar noise, a sister or parent shuffling papers in a nearby room or the gentle scratch of a dog’s paws jogging across wood floors. It beats a measure of life into this yellow house.
He is backlit against the curtain, his body enhanced, a mutation. He is a blown-up photograph, rigorously detailed like a movie poster for The Fly.”
My husband and I moved 2000 miles away from everything we’ve ever known. He leaves the house when sanguine robins are scrounging for worms in the wet grass. Now I am alone. Carless, jobless. This isolation is augmented by not knowing anyone and having no way to get anywhere. I do alright in the mornings when the light penetrates the living room with a dust-enhancing and meditative glow. Light is always a good metaphor, a good forecast. I drink coffee and think about my situation, relive the long drive, the crying friends, the moment of exploration when we discovered this mountainous topography through the fog.
The feeling of finding stuff to fill your day is terrifying. This is my youth, this is post college, this is supposedly when I’ve arrived, but this is a barren season. I worry about meaningless things.
Is xylitol really healthy, or is IT? rat poison? Am I gonna get cancer?
Forgot to take my boots off, now the carpet will get dirty.
Did I lock the backdoor, yes, no, did I? Stop it, I did! I did!
My bookcase is getting fat. I devour hunks of pages. The books take me out of this sphere and into another and this is the mental escapism which makes reading such an addiction. Between chapters, I think about my friends in Florida. They float in pools of blue water, under a pink-flamingo sun drinking margaritas and telling dumb jokes. (That’s not even close to what they’re really doing.)
Then I get on Facebook, that Pandora’s Box full of what ifs and highlight reel snapshots. These cyber wanderings do me no good, I just feel like I missed something: a concert, a memory, a loitering session outside of an art museum. Friends laugh in digital photos, someone gets a job, another is starting a new band and I am a billion miles away. Out of sight and out of mind. This is the irrational fear of being forgotten.
My sanity is finely balanced between the anticipation of my afternoon coffee and knowing I could phone a friend to get the right answers. Today I sink into the couch, coffee in hand, about to finish A Farewell to Arms, which holds my hand and walks me through this shadowy valley. I am in the Italian hospital, waiting for the news… a fly buzzes by my ear breaking concentration. I shut the book. I fold today. This is the fourth fly this week and I normally just keep on living and reading and forgetting but I can’t.
The sound disappears then bursts by my ear in shifts of pitch and meter. I chase him down the hall, A Farewell to Arms raised in my hand. I trap him in our bedroom and shut the door. A temporary peace descends. But panic is a wily thing. I can’t stop picturing our snow-driven bed through his baubled perspective. What if he lands on the pillow and imprints the white with his dirty feet?
He is backlit against the curtain, his body enhanced, a mutation. He is a blown-up photograph, rigorously detailed like a movie poster for The Fly. I stalk him. Get inches from his impeccable armor and swat. He flies and I fly after, jumping on the bed and down to the floor and around and around. I’m dizzy and thrash my book in the general direction of buzz.I’m out of my league, obtuse without wings. The fly is my new metaphor, a symbol for something poignant that I can’t pinpoint. Fear, unemployment, aging, a slaughtered lamb, a flower to be crushed?
I feel it all around me, the fevered urgency of life and death. Blind and wheeling I whack against the wall, a speck of life falls, a gleam of existence smothered. I hit him again and again into the wood floor like a neurotic movie actress in a B-grade scene about insanity. He’s beyond death now, a fossil on a cave wall, a beat-up artifact existing outside the well-drawn lines of time. Light flickers back and forth like a tide across the floor.