Do you listen to people when they express an opinion about what YOU ought to be doing, living, thinking in your life? I doubt it, because like me, your mind is already made up. You’ve already crossed that line, and waded into the deep end. And like me, you probably didn’t see that the middle of the pool was sloping downhill.
Friends began placatingly enough, telling me, as they might a wayward child, “I LOVE your house, Emily — ” But then their conversations radically veered, pushing me into a hermetically sealed, airtight box, a stifling place where they could trap me, place a dunce cap on top of my head, and demand insistently, “WHY would you ever want to sell it? WHY would you consider leaving it? WHY would you think you could live in a Fifth Wheel in your driveway while you remodel a crumbling house?” There were enough WHY’s to make me worried that I really am crazy.
We are remodeling a crumbling house, living in a Fifth Wheel in our driveway. The birds get to hang out in my garage, not me.
But enough of the WHY’s already. The closing documents have been signed and filed with the county clerk. It’s as done a deal as you can get. What I need now is someone to hold my hand, and explain to me why there are birds living in my new garage.
You need to understand that this new garage space, the linear, physical aspects of it, with berths for three cars, floor sprinkled with tan-and-pink pebbles neatly encased in clear cement (a process that never ceases to amaze me) holds little fascination as a place to park actual automobiles. That will happen someday, but for now the space exists only as a tangential concept. From the vantage point of two square feet of window next to my side of the bed in Mabel the Fifth Wheel, the physical demarcation of our new garage represents the portal to a potential New World Vision. From there, I can enter Fantasy Land, walking through the dilapidated house, imagining how it will return to life.
Each morning, I slide up the pleated shade on the window and survey my new Kingdom from on high. It’s not as celestial as it sounds; there are four perforated metal steps leading down from Mabel’s interior. I worry about missing one, and end up, skull crushed on the concrete wall two feet outside her front door. I enter the garage, tell Flopsy and Mopsy the collies, “Good morning,” and head inside, dodging large, black birds. Something is wrong with this picture.
Because we have no yard (torn up), and the collies have no grass on which to run and play (soon, says my contractor, soon!), we leave the garage door open for the dogs all day. They need shade. They need their dog beds. They need familiarity. The damned birds, darting and swooping in arcs in front of me, are in MY SPACE. They are in MY PORTAL, because they have discovered the dog food. They make me incredibly angry.
Remodeling is stressful on my brain, impacting creativity. I needed to run away from “home” for a while.
So when Dr. K invited me to accompany him to a medical meeting, I happily accepted. A chance to run away from home for a few days! No black birds chasing me out of my garage! No dangerous metal steps to climb up and down all day! Five days in Chicago! What idiot would say no?
Off we flew, me and my grand ideas traveling together in a wishful bundle of delusion. After the whirlwind of packing, moving, agonizing over whether the house would really close, and making minimal headway towards adaptation of life in a Fifth Wheel, didn’t I need a break?
For me, this break was going to be all about getting my head back together so I could work.
“You can go to your meeting,” I informed him, “and I’ll hang out here in the room and work on my novel. I’ll just write. That’s it, that’s all. Fifteen hundred words a day, promise!”
I planned to spend time away from home writing. Instead, all I could think of were the birds in the garage.
Except all my mind could conjure up were images of the damned black birds, cackling it up in my new garage, dive bombing for dog food. Sitting in the hotel room, staring at the computer screen, I dawdled and wasted time, pretending I was researching topics, when what I really was doing was surfing. Stray words drew my attention like bright, shiny objects, and my mind darted and swooped, picking at tidbits of information. I needed to clear my head of them, flush them away. It made sense to go outside.
There is a winding path that edges the Chicago River, following the alarmingly green water as it pulses westward from Lake Michigan. The river is green tinged, even though St. Patrick’s Day is months past. I jog toward the lakefront trail, passing a kiosk advertising urban kayaking. Glancing again at the vegetable-bright river, I decide to forego that opportunity.
Jogging makes me hungry, as hungry as the swooping birds in my garage, and as narrow-minded. The quest to find momentary peace and quiet, and a chance to calm my mind from the recent move fritters away, replaced by thoughts of breakfast. All I can think of are eggs: where can I find eggs?
On the first day, I walk and walk, discovering a bright, yellow hallway where they offer eggs. They must, as they have named the establishment, Yolk. Bastardized versions of pop music bump and grind, bouncing off the room’s narrow walls. I’m drowning in a sea of yellow. This wasn’t a good idea, I think.
The next day, after another long walk, I try Eggsperience, hoping exercise will settle my mind, releasing words trapped in my brain so I can work. This restaurant space is square, its coloring less garish. I have high hopes for rejuvenation, until the odd antics of a couple behind me trap my attention. The man rises from their table, once, twice, and then once more, each time taking a stroll around the restaurant. I watch as he loops the room, returning to report to his girlfriend about the conversations occurring at other tables. He switches places three times, whether to better observe other diners, or to whisper in her ear, I don’t know. The couple pick on the waitress about the bitterness of their coffee, asking repeatedly why the menu doesn’t offer turkey sausage.
In front of me, two waitresses duel over which of them had swiped the condiment stand off the other’s table (it was me, after mine mysteriously disappeared), and I’m afraid to tell them, afraid they may kick me out before I can finish my meal.
Again the music thumps, pattering, base booming, and then it all fades away, there were thoughts tumbling out from my fingertips onto my iPhone screen. I couldn’t hear the screech of human conversation any longer, and the words spilled.
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Award-winning author Emily Kemme writes about human nature, illuminating the everyday in a way that highlights its brilliance. Follow her on her blog, Feeding the Famished, https://www.facebook.com/EmilyKemme, or on Twitter @. Life inspired. Vodka tempered.