It’s been six months, two weeks and five days since I moved back home. Almost twenty-five weekends I’ve spent in the room I grew up in, a room I had moved out of six years ago. I’ve certainly stopped growing physically; the bed accommodates my length, groaning occasionally as my bulk tosses and turns in the eternal search for the bliss that only comes with deep sleep.
I’ve woken up this morning feeling as I always do. Like I haven’t slept. Like I’ve never slept. Even though the rapidly declining level of pills in the see-through orange canister tells me otherwise. Maybe I’ll never sleep again, not the heavy, listless sleep that is the prerogative of the very young and the very old. And the very happy.
I look out over the courtyard through eyes bleary with the cold water I’ve used to wash my face in an attempt to feel fresh. Needless to say, it hasn’t worked. I stopped using warm water a while ago; sultry drops running down my face feel too much like tears.
It’s a still morning, as always, on our street. All the residents, those with goals and plans and objectives and things to do, at any rate, have probably left about an hour ago, striding with purpose to their bikes and cars, heading for school or work. During the week, it’s usually just old Mr. Jacobs next door who’s left behind to mind the street.
And now there’s me.
He’s a weird one, that Mr. Jacobs. Mama tells me he used to be quite a looker, though you’d have to stare real hard now to see the truth in that statement. Suffice it to say the shaggy eyebrows and the leery scowl that seems to perpetually populate his face, coupled with the apoplectic attitude with which he regards the world at large and the denizens of Sunderland Drive in particular, very quickly puts paid to the notion that he ever had an attractive persona of any kind.
I’ve known him my whole life, and I can count on my fingertips the number of times I have spoken to him. And it probably won’t take even one hand to count the number of times he would have actually grunted a reply.
Mama says there was a time, when he moved in at first, that he smiled, and laughed out loud too. This was clear before my time, as I’ve only ever seen him with that dour, rheumy look. He sits on the porch all day in his tatty overalls, the first of many tumblers of Jack-on-the-rocks condensing into little bubbles, laced with his particular brand of ill humor.
Queenie once made the mistake of chasing a frayed tennis ball into his backyard. I can still see him standing at the fence, foaming at the mouth and waving his old strand of rosary beads at her. Sometimes I think it’s a good thing dogs can’t fully understand the intricacies of human speak. Then again, even if they could, Queenie would be what one would call a special needs dog, with ADHD and dyslexia all rolled into one. Her tail was wagging the whole time Mr. Jacobs was raining down the Apocalypse on her.
I can feel the fuzz of new growth on my arms and I pull out the waxing strips from the medicine cabinet; I’m not allowed near razors any more. But I do get to go to the kitchen, with all those nice sharp knives, and make myself a sandwich. Go figure! Talk about blaming the tool and not the wielder. The world makes no sense. Then again, it never did.
Arms smooth as silk, I tiptoe downstairs to an empty house. Mama would have joined the other purposeful ones on their way to work. When I first moved back, she wouldn’t even leave the room. I guess you can call this progress. Not that there’s much choice in the matter. We need someone to bring home the bacon, Queenie and I.
Everything is how it should be in our house, exactly in its place. Mama always says having a man walk out on you is no reason to let everything fall apart. Except yourself of course. There are nights when I can still hear her quiet sobs, but somehow her cheerful disposition in the morning makes me doubt what I heard. I wonder where she gets this quiet resilience from, and why it has eluded me thus far.
“Love is tricky,” Mama says. “Not everyone gets to have the perfect love. But this does not mean you stop looking, because finding it makes it all worthwhile.” I could tell her she needs to get going on the looking front. A few more years and few more worry lines on her face and Mama will have a tough time finding anyone who thinks she is worthwhile.
In my experience, although limited at best, Love does not adhere to the age-old Biblical constructs. Seeking does not mean finding, and finding definitely does not mean keeping. The most unlikely of us seem to stumble across it, when we least expect it. I suppose that’s why they call it falling in love.
Old Mr. Jacobs was one such specimen, who stumbled onto the kind of love that novels and operas are written about, if you believe what Mama says. And let’s face it, she’s never given me reason not to. She says the sun went out of his life the day they carried Mrs. Jacobs out through the front door.
“All he has to cling on to now is her memory. And her things. The house they built together, photographs, even that old rosary he keeps fingering belonged to her. All he can do is wait for the day they will be united again.”
I suppose I could tell him love is hard to hold on to in this life, never mind the next. He should quit while he’s ahead.
I can hear Queenie scratching at the back door. Mama lets her out everyday before she leaves, to do her business in the yard outside. As if that dog could be trusted to mind her own. I let her in, and she jumps up at me, overjoyed to see me, as if she’s spent eons without me.
I despair of ever having another human being look at me in that way again.
Her tongue lolls out of her soft mouth, releasing her morning find. The sharp clatter of the well-fingered beads hitting the floor breaks the suburban stillness.
I guess Mr. Jacobs got tired of waiting after all.
I’m tired too, but I’ll wait. Just a little bit longer.
Then again, maybe I won’t.
Dimple Shah arrived in Hong Kong ten years ago and promptly decided to forego a lucrative career in Banking and Finance for the unquantifiable joys of writing. An avid consumer of words all her life, she has only recently officially assumed the mantle of producer of words and spinner of yarns. Read more about her and her work at www.dimpleshahchronicles.com