She tapped her fingers on the steering wheel as she went through the mental checklist of things she needed to do. The kids hadn’t done their homework; she hadn’t gone to the gym yet today; the laundry was still stacked on the drier; she needed to pay the electricity bill. ‘What could possibly be taking them this long’ she thought. The little glass barrier finally collapsed into itself revealing the familiar white bag she had been waiting for.
“Two burgers and fries with two diet cokes!” Stated the cheery employee as the woman snatched the bag and said a meaningless “thanks.”
The drive through window was out of sight, and she sat now at a red light waiting for the traffic signal.
“Change you stupid light!” She yelled as she continuously tucked her loose strands of hair behind her ears. There was no one else in the car to sympathize with her impatience. She unhinged her jaw to the side as she released a sigh filled with steam of frustration.
As she pulled into the driveway she loosened her grip of the steering wheel for an instant. Relieved that she had a second to breathe. A moment to pull out of the strangle hold of a life that she was living. She stared into the familiar bricks glowing from her headlights, and then opened the car door knowing she had to continue into the depths of her own home.
The burgers and fries went to her two children as she hurried into the kitchen to recollect herself and start the next thing. “Mom, you forgot the ketchup?!… Where’s the ketchup?… Can you get the ketchup?”
“Use a napkin, not your sleeve.” She calmly replied as she went to get the ketchup from the refrigerator.
The list had shrunk slightly by the time she was forcing the kids into their pajamas, the nightly battle ritual that almost always ended with someone in tears. She finally read enough books to appease them both so that she could leave the slightly lit room and slip onto the couch fully exhausted. She had missed the show she wanted to watch, and her counterpart had yet to arrive.
The mirror in her bathroom revealed a very aged looking young girl. Very different from the girl who dreamed of living so vividly. She pulled her hands down her face revealing the elasticity of her worn skin, no longer resembling the innocence of her youth.
The next day was a daunting pile of things to pick up, things to clean, and things to pass her by. The world seemed to be moving too fast for her to be able to accomplish all of them. She took a gulp of water to swallow the sleeping pill that would help her go to sleep faster. She stared into the vastness of her failures, and worried how hard it might be to go to sleep still. She sipped another pill down. The mirror continued to show the same woman.
After the fourth and fifth pills she laid down on the cold tile of the bathroom floor. Stretching her fingers out she could feel her pulse in each movement in an ironic moment of clarity. Her world had slowed down enough for her to relax, for her to not have to think about the celebrity gossip in the latest magazine, or the stain that was still in his shirt, or the food that hadn’t been packed for the kids lunches. She could just feel the world around her and fully receive all it was telling her. The plant that was awkwardly placed on the ledge of their bathtub, the wrinkles in the ceiling because of the wear of the paint, the dirt in the cracks between the tiles on the floor, all became more known. The weight of the continuous list slowly lifted off of her shoulders and allowed her to take a deep breath. As she slowly closed her eyes and the last color filtered through her eyelashes, she was finally okay with where she was.
“Hey, honey. You okay?” A hand gently placed on her shoulder slowly forced her eyelids to open after several hours of being unconscious. “You’re on the bathroom floor?” She forced herself up off of the ground and slung her arms around his body.
“I guess I fell asleep.” She said as she rested her head on the pillow of his chest, not willing to recognize the lateness of his arrival. She squeezed the warmth out of his body. She could feel every bone that filled it, and every muscle that held those bones in place. The life that exuded from his being was totally in her grasp, and she was not going to let go. She did not want to have to do life on her own, to accomplish her list by herself.
“Hey, let’s get you to bed.” He lifted her head to his and slowly guided their foreheads together. Her list was still long, and he had a list of his own too. But when they touched their heads and closed their eyes for a second the lists vanished and they could just be alone in the massive world of giant lists together, unafraid to face them as long as they still had each other.