My eyes flicker. I've been sleeping beyond my alarm clock. I've been sleeping for ages. This has happened a few times. I wake up without an alarm, feeling too well rested, and look at the clock that makes me late for everything. Eyes dart open surveying my surroundings. A dark corner. A blinking alarm clock. A velvet painting of a deer with another deer. I survey my position. I am on my side facing what appears to be the back of a rough fabric couch. I am wearing a flannel, jeans, and some boots made of rubber and leather. I open my eyes fully and look around. There is a television with an antenna, a deer bust, and a picture of a guy in a wooden barrel scrubbing himself with a brush.
This isn't my life.
I live on 39th street in New York City. I have a wife and three kids and two dogs. I work at a law firm as a new lawyer. I have impressed my bosses a dozen times and have been insinuated a promotion. I wear a suit and tie to work and take pride in my appearance. I am young and good looking and intelligent. I am what everyone in Harvard University looks like. I work hard at looking the role.
I wake up completely. The way a person wakes up when the smell of coffee has become too strong to resist. There is no coffee here though. Here, as I look around, seems to be nowhere. I am nowhere. I am a man in a flannel laying on an old sofa in a cabin in the woods with no other sound but my own sober breath. Where am I and how did this happen? I remember sitting in my chair with a bottle of whiskey. That's it. That's all.
I lost a big case. The first big case I was assigned to. I had worked on many, but this one was mine: I was in charge of it. A kid went missing and I was sure it was the father who did it and not my client. They found the body in the river miles down stream. The killer? A 15 year old that confessed dumping him there; paralyzed in guilt. They all laughed at me after that. I went home and sat down with a bottle of whiskey and leaned back in my chair.
I am surrounded now by evergreen trees. I don't recognize where I am. I call for my wife. Nothing. I call for my children. Nothing. I roll over and reach my feet, legs feeling 100 years old. I look outside the window after clearing the cobwebs from the sill and see nothing but wilderness. Trees, Just trees. Where were my wife and kids? Why did I feel so old? The refrigerator is empty. There are no tracks in the dirt that surrounds the cabin. There is no phone to call out. One single box of Rice Chex in the cupboard. I realize that no matter how I got here, I am screwed. I know this because this has always how I've pictured hell. Now I am here.
For a fleeting moment it occurs to me that I've always been here...the hell, not the cabin. I've been sterile for some time; letting work consume me. I've neglected everything but manilla envelopes with red strings that tie around little spheres. I walk over to the bathroom and pull the little rusted chain that operated the buzzing dull bulb that lit the room. My reflection is blocked from the mirror that hung over the sink, caked with dust. I wipe away the center and look into my own eyes to see who I really am in this cabin. I have a habit of being different people in different places.
Today my eyes looked panicked. My face is bearded and hair is long, but well groomed and free of oil. It appears I have shaved my neck around my Adam's apple; a spot my wife detested when I would neglect the razor for a few days in law school. I was always afraid of shaving off the flesh around the bones that constructed my windpipe. The jugular was a concern as well. I have compulsions which make me want to do things harmful to myself. I literally test fate and run the razor once or twice fast down my face, leaving small cuts several times. I was afraid of these compulsions during shaving my neck. One false move and I could have two cupped hands full of blood.
My appearance took my attention away from my current existence for a moment. This may have been due to the fact that I'd always wanted to live in a cabin in the woods and wear flannels and not shave and answer to no one. After this momentary fascination, I feel my heart sink again. I had written my greatest desire off as hell. I walk to the door to the right and realize that this house is the exact architecture of my other house. Except this one is here and that one is there. Am I here or there? They both all of the sudden feel familiar. This home feels as much as home as the other, which gets more distant in my memory as the moments pass by. I shake the cobwebs and enter my daughter's room. Her bed. Her bed is there! Her things are kinda there! But strange recreations of her things. They are made of wood and sticks and berries and leaves. But they are her's! This place is beginning to feel familiar again and warm. I rub my beard in the doorway and wonder about the woods. No particular part of the woods come to mind, just whether people in other places of the woods could hear me if I shouted. I feel sadness for my daughters little stick dolls, but I also feel at home.
I try really hard to remember the decor in my other home. My sofa is leather, brown with fake weathering. I have an oil painting of the New York Skyline, pre-911 on my wall. My daughter's room is a violet color with American Girl dolls lining the wooden shelf lining the walls of her room. More dolls on her bed, and more in her closet. Pictures of mommy line the walls and a single picture of me...daddy, on her art desk. She has drawn me almost perfectly. Almost. Except for the beard. I never understood why she drew the beard.
Where am I right now? I cannot figure out if right now is a dream I am having as a lawyer in New York, or if New York is a dream I had while sleeping last night. Either way, the scenarios have their strengths and weaknesses. I could have my dream or my family. I grim as I pull the chain to release the energy from the bathroom halogen light. I turn around and go to my bedroom. Opening the door becomes a task as something is on the other side that seems designed to keep someone out. A chair, or a card table, I thought. I slammed my body against the door until I won the battle and placed my foot into a different universe.
The smell was the first thing I had noticed. It smelled of lavender at first, then vanilla. It was a smell that made me close my eyes and try to remember where I had smelled it before. It was so familiar. The bed wasn't made. The covers were spread midway to the foot and the bottom were turned over as if they were kicked off the feet. My wife never could stand her feet to be covered or held down. I would do this from time to time to piss her off or be playful, not sure which was the real reason I did this.
I walked over to the closet and opened a militant room of organization. Shoes together on the floor, married to their other half. Clothing hanging perfectly on the closet rail. I smelled the clothing. They smelled of a summer campfire. I would have expected to smell of perfume. My wife always wore perfume. I sit on the bed to collect my thoughts. I light a cigarette, which feels strange to me because I don''t smoke and don't know why I have the cigarettes in the first place, or why I even have the urge. In have never smoked before. I look to the table at the bedside and see a wedding picture. It all looks so familiar, except for the beard. What is the deal with this beard?
At this moment I get sick onto the floor. I wretch and wretch until there is nothing but dry heaves. I don't even know why. I felt nothing before, but now I cannot breathe a full breath without vomiting. I have to get out of this room. I have to get out now! I want tog o, but I can't make my legs move. I am stuck here, vomiting, but feeling so at peace.
I fall asleep.
My eyes flicker. I've been sleeping beyond my alarm clock. I've been sleeping for ages. This has happened a few times. This isn't my life. I wake up to the sun beaming through a very large window. My leather couch is caked with my sweat, as it usually is when I drink too much. I know the day, and the time of the day. It is 7:00 AM. I am supposed to have been at work already. Usually I would be freaking out about my tardiness, but right now, I don't feel at home.
I don't feel like I should be here. I have feelings of dread, so I go to my daughter's room and look for her. She isn't there. Just a colored picture of me on the wall with a beard. I panic. I go to my wife's room and easily open the door to find a smell that made me want to cry. The smell of lavender and vanilla filled my nostrils. My wife was here. Was here. Was. This isn't home anymore.
This is hell. This is the life I made to forget. What happened to them? All at once, I remember.
Thanks for reading...Z