The Routine

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Perfect. Those spreadsheets are finally done. What next? Lunch. Reports. I have a meeting this afternoon. I need more Post-Its. What time is it? 11:21am. Eleven. Twenty. One. GAH! How could forget to call her? How did I miss the past two hours? I hope she’s there. I hope she doesn’t think I forgot about her. I feel terrible for making her wait today. Terrible.

I fumble for the desk phone, which seems farther away this morning. My hands make several inexplicable failed attempts to grab the receiver until I’m able to make a clumsy snatch.

“Hello? Mom?”

“Hello.” Her voice is concerned and distant. The line crackles slightly.

“So sorry. I’m late today. I have this project and…”

“That’s alright, Jessica. I’m just puttering around,” She says.

“I didn’t want you to think I forgot. How goes it?”

“Just dandy!” She responds.

The blatant sarcasm makes me chuckle. She’ll never change. There is a comfortable pause of amplified silence between us. My strategic fingers coil and uncoil the phone cord, every undone tangle feels like a personal victory. My attention abruptly diverts to a wailing child across the street outside.

“Can you believe how cold this May has been?” I ask.

“Are you wearing your jacket?”

“Mom.”

“If it’s cold you shouldn’t be going outside without your jacket.”

“I, the adult, have been wearing my coat.”

“Jessica Ann…,”she begins.

“I know when I need to wear my coat. I’ve survived this long. Shocking, isn’t it?”

“Don’t ever be mad when someone cares enough about you to worry, Jessica.”

“Fine. Sorry, mom.”

My hand makes a slow glide back and forth against the smooth grain of the desk until it bumps into a stray pen. I grab it and fiddle with the clicking mechanism. Click. Click. Click. Each click is a robust penetration through the unusual stillness within the office. Somehow, the entire suite emptied within the past few minutes. I’m alone. The clicking repetitions offer a hypnotic ease. I soon rouse from this brief trance to the child still weeping outside, louder now. Poor thing. Click. Click. Mom interrupts these wandering thoughts.

“How is work today?”

“Work is great. It’s busy. That time of year, really.”

“Keeping you out of trouble?” She jokes.

“Always.”

“That’s good. That must be a lot with your classes.”

“Classes? Mom, I’ve told you before. I graduated. Three years ago.”

“Oh. That’s right,” She sighs.

“I do have a blog now though.”

“A what?”

“It’s a personal website, mainly for people to freely share their stories and interests. That sort of thing.”

“People can see it? What are you sharing? Don’t put your social security number on it!”

“Mom. I write about French stuff. That’s basically it. You know how much I love Paris.”

“You do own a lot of Eiffel Towers,” she affirms.

“You bought most of them for me.”

“I don’t like it, Jessica.”

“The Eiffel Towers?”

“I don’t like you putting yourself on the internet. Someone will steal your identity.”

“Mom, it will be fine. I promise. It’s just a way to connect better with people who have similar interests. That’s all.”

“Why?” she asks.

“I think everyone has some desire to share and connect. It’s a nice feeling. You’d like reading the blog.”

“Not the point.”

“Who knows, you might even create your own. Maybe share your skillet lasagna recipes,” I tease.

“Yeah. Right. The world needs my skillet lasagna,” she says.

The next moment found us both in a roaring laughter. I haven’t heard her laugh in a long time. I have been aching for this. The booming waves of happiness between us echo around the office. Yet, protruding through our amusement is the shrill screams of the child from earlier. The sound is alarmingly closer than before. Is he in here? He’s in here. I catch a glimpse of him standing against the wall at the other end of the suite. This doesn’t seem to bother me.

“I miss you, mom. When will you be home?” I demand.

“Five o’clock. Like always,” she says.

“It never seems to be five. Ever.”

“We’ll see, Jessica.”

Our conversation muffles, but the child still screams. Slowly, everything around me evaporates. The pencils, computers, conference tables are all plucked from my view, and I’m left sitting in the middle of this vastly darkened hollow space. I can feel the anxiety building and restricting my breathing. The child’s screams heightening the tension in my chest. Then, everything stops.

Bailey is howling outside of the bedroom. It’s almost 5:00am. Why didn’t my alarm work? She must be mad I haven’t fed her yet. She’s so loud. I hope the neighbors don’t hear her. They’ll think we abuse our cats. Why do I feel anxious? Oh. Right. It happened again.

I gradually waken and rub my eyes, which are dry and weary from the restless sleep. I want to be glad I dreamed of her, since the dreams offer retreat when it’s needed most. However in this moment, I’m sad. Feeling the whelming surge emotional pangs, I bite my lip and turn away from my husband who is deep within his own slumber. His steady breaths are barely audible over Bailey’s aggressive meows. The gentle warmth of tears start to mask my cheeks, and I turn on my back to keep them from dampening the pillow. Our skylight grabs my attention. The dawn sky is particularly captivating. Against the deep indigo plane are the shimmery speckles of twinkling stars, happily shining in concert with one another. I’m relieved. Sometimes, I forget that I made her a star. My star. This morning, they are exceptionally lively. I smile. They are very bright.

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