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 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 comes 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.
Thanks for reading...Z