I gave myself the day off today. I ran, showered, took care of Jack and made a pizza. Three things became crystal clear today: 1) I AM NOT PATIENT 2) I have unrealistic romantic relationship expectations 3) I think it’s perfect love to want to cook for someone.
I’m a little mopey so excuse me if this story isn’t exactly humorous. It’s more visceral, inspired by a farm we passed coming back from Princeton. It doesn’t have a title. I don’t care. Titles are limiting, right? Enjoy. Hate. Ignore. I don’t care. Here ya go:
The gravel hit the bottom of the car like crushed ice, crunching and spitting and slipping. She steered the car to the entrance of the barn, turned off the ignition, opened the door and stepped out. Her flip flops unsteady in the gravel, she walked into the grass that lined the driveway, meticulously weeded to remain just that – a gravel driveway. She could see remnants of grass clippings along the edge of the driveway where a weed whacker had created a perfectly clean line between the grass and the gravel.
She looked towards the house, but walked further out onto the grass hill next to the barn, away from the house. Her flip flops wouldn’t cooperate with the incline and the slip of the grass, so she stepped out of them and felt the grass under her feet. It was so different than the grass in the backyard of the house she rented with friends. It was completely unlike the grass at Centennial Park, where it was parched, brown and practically straw. No, here it was like moss, almost dripping with moisture, even in the bright pink of the evening sun.
“Nothing grows grass like cow manure,” she thought.
She clasped her flip flops with one hand and let the fingers on her free hand wriggle like they were playing an imaginary piano. She caught herself playing eighth note triplets to the wind. It was the left hand accompaniment to a song she loved so much as a teenager she had memorized. It was muscle memory now. She relaxed her fingers, remembering the cramps she would liken to carpal tunnel when she would try to discourage her mother from making her continue piano lessons.
She continued up the hill, walking past the cows, who, were they any other cows, would have been petrified of this two-legged, long-haired creature stomping on their supper, flattening each tender blade with her heels and toes. A distance from the cows now, she stopped and sat. She tucked her knees to her chest and looked at the house wrapped in ruby red grapefruit glow of the soon to be night sky. If only life was always in this color. Surely nothing bad could happen when the whole hillside looked like a seashell.
“Red sky at night, sailor’s delight. Red sky in morning, sailor’s warning.”
She remembered her dad saying this when the sky was blazing in the evenings. If he had ever repeated this phrase in the morning, she couldn’t remember. She could only recall him saying it as he stood on the sun porch as the sun set and watched the cows mosey, hands on his hips, maybe he’d scratch his neck or then cross his arms.
“Red sky at night, sailor’s delight,” he would say. He’d turn to her and smile, but wouldn’t say anything else. They’d stand there on the porch. The cats would come into the cool of the porch from the hot barn and rub up against his legs and still he wouldn’t move, just stare at the sky.
Now she was staring at the house. The house that her father meticulously maintained. The house her mother had refused to move from because she said they would never find another with a wrap-around porch just like it. The house with solar panels on the roof because Dad thought they were “interesting.” The house that kept at least four cats at any given time, because Mom thought, “even cats could recognize a loving household when they saw one.”
She had loved the house too, but she was no farmer. She hadn’t set out to deny her heritage as a form of teenage rebellion, life had just presented itself differently to her. She didn’t dislike cows, but she had no intention of herding them on this hillside for the rest of her days, the way her father did, the way her father loved to do. The way her father had hoped she would love to do.
The sky was darkening now but still kept a strip of blood red sun, that ran parallel with the hillside and the fences. She could have sat there forever, if only the sky promised to stay that way, and if the air would keep that warm flush of a breeze in it. Then she remembered seeing the cows up to their kneecaps in snow the past winter and shook herself from the sunset trance.
She picked up her flip flops and walked down the grade back to her car that sat in front of the barn. She had spent at least an hour on the hill and her parents had yet to realize she was there. They would think she was late. She threw the flip flops into the back seat and slipped on brown leather flats. She shook her hair out of its ponytail and flipped a portion of it over a side part. She pinched her cheeks for color and looked at her reflection in the car window. She threw a button-up sweater on over her low-cut T-shirt and drew in a deep breath and felt her chest drop as she exhaled, feeling her nerve drop to the gravel driveway. She knew it was all futile. No amount of Sunday’s best would make her parents alright with the idea that she would remain in the city, that she did not want to stay here to help run things, that she didn’t have any brothers or sisters who did to bail her out of this character flaw.
She walked up the wide white wooden steps of the wrap-around porch. Her heels clapped the wood, one, two, three, four. She reached for the screen door handle and pulled it toward her and let herself in. She let the door fall, smack, into it’s frame, like a flyswatter on a window pane. She heard her mother murmuring to one of the cats, and saw her father’s foot tapping as he filled out a crossword puzzle. She walked into the corridor, where she could remain unseen for a while longer and then finally set a foot into the family room.
“Mom, Dad, I’m home.”