It’s the morning, and I wake up with a terrible ache in my stomach, my wife gone, and darkness all around me. I don’t know the time, but surely she’s gotten up earlier to make coffee in the kitchen. I have to get there.
My eyes don’t work, however. And it’s too early for light. There is something moving about in the darkness, and the darkness itself is moving. The bed sheets, they come off, into rumples and folds which I will straighten out later. But first coffee.
But no, first the restroom. My belly grumbles, as my bladder hums that it’s time to unload. One foot then the other land halfway onto my flip flops, whose rubber and threaded nylon strap tuck my big toes into place.
Because my eyes yet work, plus the pitch darkness, the room feels vast, and empty, as if without walls, and infinite. I stand and get dizzy, every organ in my body ill, while tendons and ligaments, once quiet and warm in bed, now greet me with hello and good morning. It’s an exercise in yoga just to shuffle to the bedroom door.
Luckily I know it takes me two steps, and I count them, long ones, to the door, whose cold handle almost stings my palm. As I step out from one vast emptiness into another, I wipe the sweat of my palm on the side of my cotton shirt.
The sound resonating within the bowl judges my accuracy. Loud splash for green, ceramic ricochet for yellow, and chiming rim with tiny spray against my shins for red. I cross all the traffic lights, then press on the handle. On a normal day I would have walked out, but during quarantine, I remember to wash my hands.
And wash my face with water. The faucet delivers cool, translucent liquid, oily kind of water. After closing the knob, my head turns up towards the mirror.
But my eyes refuse. I see nothing. Raising my arms, I roar. But not a sound comes out. My heart beats, though, like a timpani drum. And it’s all I can hear, all I can sense, as I turn towards the bathroom door. There’s still a chance, if only I can reach the kitchen, and find my wife.
From the bathroom to the kitchen is a straight shot, easily traversed through the living room, into the entrance foyer, then taking a sharp left. Detecting a faint hint of roasted beans and the sound of fried eggs, I know my body would help me reach the finish line, never mind the failed eyes.
Yet each step is agony. It feels as if I am in physical therapy again, after the accident, shaking my legs forward instead of placing one in front of the other. I use the wall to my right for guidance, but it slides. It’s a sliding door, and I half fall onto the washing machine. A box of powdered detergent spills all over, between the machine and the wall, behind the machine, everywhere. Spilling like an hour glass, that powder.
Getting up makes the other items fall too, but nothing matters, it can be cleaned up later. For now, the kitchen.
I continue to use the wall, past the sliding doors, and come across a thin archway. I always knew it was there, but I have not noticed the protrusion before. Running the yolk of my fingertips along its newly painted surface, my toes begin to itch. I figure it’s a good time to scratch the itch, simply bend over a bit. A bit more. More.
As I crouch to scratch, it becomes apparent I haven’t clipped my fingernails in over a week, so I cut my own dry, fleshy, toe knuckle skin. The pain is unreal. And then a cramp springs from my left hamstring, and I’m thrown forward like tumbleweed in the wind.
Deep breaths. The cramp goes away, the dark, empty, spinning shadow world around me stops, halts, and I am ok again.
Only, the commotion has cast me right in the middle of the living room, with no wall, no straight line to the kitchen, just a dead middle, like finding yourself stranded and using a compass without an arrow, just a metal center point that spins perfectly fine, but to no use.
I am reminded of avalanche survival advice, where if ever tumbled by snow on a mountain, cover your mouth with your hands before the snow covers you; then once calmly covered, you spit, so as to know which direction is up, meaning which direction to crawl towards.
But here, in the living room, instead of snow, there is only darkness. Blind and somewhere in the middle, over the central rug of the space, there is no way spit can help. Plus my palms, sweaty, unclean, pressed against the rug, which has crumbs and dry pasta specks and loose hair, and all sorts of crumbly gross things, cannot for the life of me feel clean. I need to go to the kitchen. There I can wash my hands, eat, and wake up.
All the commotion at least leaves me alert. I figure I know my living room well enough to orientate myself, as long as I have something to hold on to. Glass would indicate the worst, since the furniture with glass was closest to the bedroom, farthest from the kitchen. Wood meant I was grabbing onto the foldable living room dining table. Fabric indicated the sofa, which would be my best option.
Alas, I spring forth like a tiger, in any which direction. I almost yell, but again no sound comes out. And, behold, no glass, fabric, or any item from my memory. Instead, I come across books. Great. Books. On the bright side, the book stand was another straight shot to the kitchen. Not close, but not far either.
I pull myself up, breaking one of the middle shelves and sending college textbooks crashing onto my stinging, bleeding toes. But the pain is bearable compared to my determination. Also standing stretches out another cramp oncoming. Nothing can stop me.
My palms find the dry wall, and my feet begin to side step. I count the steps, but it doesn’t matter. Because the smell of eggs and the sound of coffee being pour is loud and clear.
The wall turns into a corner. And the wooden floorboards become ceramic tile. I’m almost there, almost.
. . .
It’s morning, and I wake up, again. I look around and there’s a bit of light coming in from the curtain, staining the room in sun. Nothing’s changed, except that I am back where I started.
The bedroom, next the bathroom, then the living room. Each looks the exact same as the day before, only bright with color.
My wife is in the kitchen, smoking a cigarette. “Want eggs?” she asks. I say, “Yes.”
After telling her my weird dream, during which she nods and puffs, she tells me hers. It was about competing for first place in a school auditorium, for some sort of contest of something vague. She can’t remember. We laugh though, and enjoy breakfast before getting ready for another day of work from home.
After, as I wash dishes, something strange happened. I was by myself in the kitchen, when all of a sudden:
“Babe,” she yells from the living room. “Help!”
I yell, “What?” and dry my hands quickly.
I almost dash out, when she pokes her head into the kitchen.
“I . . .”
“I broke the bookshelf.”