The day my father started the blue Oldsmobile we called Orca, and didn't open the garage doors
Life becomes banal, predictable. Life becomes good.
I’m 11, trying to fall asleep in my new room, the pink room with the twin beds where my mom and her sister used ignore each other. We are inside the house that my grandma decorated, where everything is just so. Unfathomably, we are fitting in with the velvet wallpaper and alabaster sculptures. I take strawberry bubble baths. My grandma combs the tangles out of my hair with a special spray.
If there were a fire in the middle of the night, I’d grab the little white binder that sits on the bedside table, the one with the single drawer, where my mom’s Nancy Drew books sit abandoned with an old hair dryer. It’s my going away binder, filled with notes--in loopy, determined cursive--from all of my friends. I search it for their phone numbers, which I finger anxiously as I dial on the old rotary phone. My mother sets the timer for the allocated half hour.
We’ve been in NJ for just a few weeks. I have to wear two pairs of pants and three layers of shirts when I play outside in the snow, but it is unreal to me--all those sparkling white hills; the inches of white flakes frosting the wrought iron patio furniture. I suffer the numb extremities, whispering to them of the hot cocoa and fresh sugar cookies awaiting.
We play hide and go seek in the laundry chute; “time traveler” in the kitchen closet. Friday evenings we eat challah and roast chicken, wave our hands over the candles; drink grape juice. Life becomes banal, predictable. Life becomes good.
And then, I come home. My father is on the couch, underneath the black and white blanket my grandma knit into a chevron pattern. An empty brown grocery store bag sits next to him--a precaution. My mom is there, too, staring with determination at the television, at The Frugal Gourmet. “Is he sick?” I ask. My mom bores a hole into Jeff Smith’s head as he breaks down the carcass of a chicken. My grandma’s house is warm and lamplit; everything is wrong.