The throat of my mailbox feeds me another crisp package of books. The thrill of unwrapping it. The delight in each cover, its rave reviews. The pride of owning it. The pressure in my heart, force fed, because now I must read it, dissect it, digest it. I’m engorged. 1,958 books and magazines litter my walls, windowsills, chairs, tables, my bed, under my bed, in the bathroom. I can’t get movement. I finish one book for every five I buy. I can’t get movement, not in my books, not in my home, not in my body. Everything’s stuck.
And there’s a rat in the wall. At night it chews those two-by-fours with its sharp teeth. Scritch scratch. I pound on the wall, pound some fear into that creature. He shivers quiet for sixty seconds. Scritch scratch. He won’t leave.
Everybody else left. My kids are seven hundred miles away in different directions.
And worse, my eardrum is buzzing. My nurse sister says it’s an aneurysm: it could burst into my brain at any moment.
She’s such a downer. Now she calls every day to see if I’m still breathing.
Magazines slip and slide across my path. I must get through these books. I must open my mind. I must clear the clutter. I try to move these books. I try to organize them. I paid for them. I can’t let them go. All this knowledge in my hands wants to pour up into my eyes. I need it to open my mind.
I speed read, eating my apple, trying to finish my current batch of seven splayed books. But this is not a speedy process. I must underline, highlight, dog-ear pages, mark others with sticky tabs to absorb again someday. That day will never come. My brain is a nest of pigeon holes, scrolls stuffed and scattered around.
Everything’s so dark; the windowsills crammed with books. If only I could get more light. The seasons have changed.
So I clear one ledge, pack those books in a box, label it backyard window. Now I can’t open the crank window; I need a screwdriver. The garage is chaos, debris of the decades. I use a putty knife to unstick the window.
Did I tell you my kids moved away? It’s just me here. And that rat in the wall. And this buzzing in my ear. And my sister on the phone. I hang up on her as soon as I can.
I boil my ramen noodles and sit right here at the window for the next chapter. My neighbor starts mowing his lawn. I didn’t ask for this. Curse the chain link fence that keeps nothing out.
Thank God my wax earplugs are in my purse. I squish them into my ears. I do a humming out-breath to cover up that blasted noise.
Finally he’s done. I settle deeper into my pages. Pull my earplugs out. Breathe. The scent of fresh cut grass flows in. I settle deeper.
Then my eardrum buzzes. My freaking eardrum. I am so freaking tired of this freaking eardrum. I lift my eyes to the dark mess of my house. How have I come to this?
Buzz. Buzz. Okay, burst already, I don’t care. I’m ready to go; I can leave right now. Leave all this behind.
Underneath the jagged buzz I hear, “Hey Mom!”
I shake my head out. The buzzing stops.
It starts again. Buzzzz, like static on an old radio. What is it dialing in?
My heart pounds. What the heck? Is my brain already bleeding?
“Hey Mom, look at me!”
For a split second, in the corner of my eye, there he is, six years old, fuzzy haircut, all his freshness, his energy, flipping around on the bar of the swing set we used to have, right there in the yard.
I spin my head to see him better.
Nobody there. Empty.
Am I dying?
I grab my phone and text my kids: Are you alive? Must know ASAP. No kidding.
It often takes days for their reply.
I stand up. I think I’m not dead?
Is my body still sitting at the window? It is not.
I look at my hands.
I slip through my stacks, out the kitchen door to the yard.
He was here, my son. Thirty years ago. Right here.
Is this a time warp, a brain warp, or just too many carbs?
Is this what it means when they say time isn’t real? It’s backyard time. I’m standing in backyard time. He might still be here. Where?
The grass cushions my feet. The sun shines on my skin. I smell the fresh mowed lawn.
I need to get out more often.
Do I call my sis? Nope.