Up, silently, the 13 wooded stairs and to the left was one of many stubborn doors the old house had to bear. The door to the right offered a rather high-pitched screech each time it was disturbed, and this door too was brash if taken too quickly. I went secretly. Slowly, with breaths as restrained as the small pushes I exerted, the door would pinch itself open into the softly lit bedroom. I then had the fantastic pleasure of slipping inside and hushing the silence of the hallway behind me. Digging my toes into the plush of the carpet, warmth intermingled with strands of her long, blackish brown, and thick-as-thread hair that accompanied her familiar smell. Rebecca.
On occasions like these, I never knew how much time would be allotted me. Footsteps could prove fatal at any moment and it was of the utmost importance to become as still as the objects I was there to worship. I always started with the black paisley chest tucked away inside the old wine cabinet filled with hairbrushes and rolls of pennies. It opened on a single fabric hinge; the chest’s beautiful black tassel flowed carelessly back as I peeked inside with sacred eyes and hands yearning to taste the magic. Patterns of rough and smooth engulfed the already sun-warmed room as I removed one by one: coins from foreign lands; two little men, one green, one blue; and the rocks. These polished stones begged to live with my own collection of treasures tucked away in my own secret place in my own little room down the hallway. How I would have liked the magic of that room to stay with me always when I withdrew, but even at my age I knew this was something I must never try to take away from Rebecca. The beautiful stones, shimmering in the light, free from worries or cares or imperfections, I knew must stay in their realm when I returned to mine.
The room had two windows with sheer, floor-length curtains that lightly hugged everything they touched. They were warm and light, full of promise, and silver-lined. I see this memory now as if I am looking through those curtains. They are perfect and dreamlike and happy like a childhood should be.
The closet was the place that smelled the most like Rebecca. Deeply engrained in the fabrics of shirts and the soles of shoes was her familiarly strong scent. T-shirts with interwoven threads of cotton and sweet sweat; sporty, musty, and heavy clung to one another. Like a mouse asserting myself in a space that was not mine, but remaining unseen and unnoticed, I tried on my most favorite selections from the closet. Athletic shoes, hardly worn and still boxed, I reverenced as ghosts. I would carefully remove and lace each shoe only to place each soul back in the box and re-stuff with that horribly gaudy paper. In its turn, each hanger was removed and delicately undressed. The long satin dresses Rebecca saved for the most special occasions sat wide on my hips and shoulders. The only audible sound then was my heart doing bounds as I basked in the light I had stolen into the room to touch. A beautiful mirror on the wall, adorned with little notes penned in Rebecca’s hand, hung to be caressed by the charm of the sheer window curtains, allowing the soft light to fall perfectly on each gown.
It is hard now, not to mix my own memories of my own possessions with those of Rebecca’s because in a few years’ time I came to be the sole possessor of most of these items. The black chest, the satin dresses, even the wine cabinet with the handle that spins because its fastening nail split its wood just slightly enough to not hold it snuggly. Today, though nothing compares to the glory days of that little bedroom, I can still feel the memory of warmth that rushes into me the moment I push, push, push open the stubborn door. The carpet, the curtains, and the mirror. It all rushes back as a reminder of the good from a childhood riddled with bad; a safe-haven of the past.
I don’t do bathrooms and traveling, but it was too late to turn around in the airport security line to dump my water bottle before I reached the TSA checkpoint. I ended up drinking the entire thing to catch our 8:25 am flight out of Salt Lake City International Airport on time along with the other 178ish people flying on our almost full plane to Chicago and that is why I am now forcing myself to stand and walk past the back five rows of the plane to reach the rear lavatory. It’s small. That’s coming from the girl who just stood fully upright beneath the overhead baggage compartment.
The hand soap dispenser juts out of its pedestal at a 72-degree angle and I would have remembered the name if the delayed flush of the toilet hadn’t been so… CKLSHH. I wouldn’t be surprised if they actually do open up a hole in the bottom of the plane after each flush to let the waste find its own path like my husband Jacob suggests as we chat later about our lavatory excursions.
‘It’s going to be a pretty full ride’ conspicuously left empty seats next to me and directly across the aisle next to a woman and her husband. I’ve been trying (not to stare and) to figure out the entire flight what led to the vacancies. Mostly I try to avoid the fact that we could be looking in a mirror if I cut my hair, Jacob let himself go, and we both aged 20 years. I find myself subconsciously following this woman’s actions, putting down my tray table after she does and trying hopelessly to read a book. We’ve both got books and husbands’ shoulders that are no good for sleeping on and husbands who are more interested in what’s going on outside the windows.
I’ve concluded its the fancy neck pillows– something Jacob and I lack. That’s why no one sat by them. Hers has a classic zebra print while his is a more conservative grey. Scratch that, his is more a carnivorous grey because he definitely just tried to eat her face with his pillow like she was some kind of beta-tested shark bait. I cannot unsee something that was never meant to be seen.
At the precise moment I force my mind to wonder about the time, I hear a mother’s raspy voice explain it’s not 12:16 in Utah, it’s 12:16 where we are landing. I find hope in the discovery I have something in common with someone other than the woman across the aisle. Maybe I’m normal after all. Maybe everyone’s husband wears hideous tennis shoes sometimes. Yes. The fact that no one sat next to me or them is just mere coincidence– not because we are both weird and awkward and unapproachable couples dressed in such a way on a flight to Chicago that we can’t be anything more than tourists on a quick weekend getaway. At the muffled announcement of our arrival, half the windows open up in a semi-simultaneous little flaflafalack. Now most of the heads of the plane mimic our husbands’, searching the air for a sign of the approaching ground. Tall buildings in the distance after rows and rows of sardined townhouses look like oddly placed dominoes just waiting to be overturned.