As she climbed into her car, mixed feelings of freedom and failure circled inside her head. She was abandoning Kyle for her own selfish needs. She was hurting a good person because she confused. But she was leaving Kyle to find her happiness before it was extinguished. She was taking away from him. She wanted to cry with confusion.All her struggle to endure her life would be pointless if she started anew. Like anyone she wanted to pursue what made her happy, and like everyone she didn’t like giving up self created challenges that made her dougbt her strength.But who was she to deserve happiness? She didn’t work hard enough to deserve it. She felt the guilt settle over her. She was just being picky and overreactive. She was a failure for not being able to endure her life. She was a burdon to Kyle, a person who could handle it. But if she left, she wouldn’t drag him down anymore. She turned the key in the ignition.
As she drove, she imagined how she’d explain this to Kyle. How she could tell him he wasn’t her dream. He’d calmly try to explain there was no such thing as the perfect man, and they had something strong and durable that didn’t make sence to give up. She was a fool to think she could have something better, But she didn’t know how to explain that deep down inside she did beleive in true happiness and perfection, and she wasn’t finding it with him.She wasn’t finding it without him either.She needed to go pursue it, but he didn’t believe in dreams. He believed in things he could see, and goals he knew he could achieve, and hard work to get there. He’d scoff off her dillutional discomfort, and she would believe it didn’t exist; she was just being picky.
Discomfort grew within her, and she realized she’d lost herself in her spiraling down mentality. She was pushing herself to the edge, when things weren’t actually so bad.She didn’t have to believe him if she didn’t want to, but the discomfort still nagged. Out of the corner of her eye she was a figure dancing down the sidewalk, dreadlocks mid flight, a giant smile on his face. She found a twinge of a smile was on her face, but her mind realized he wouldn’t last forever. Happiness flees like time. He danced out of sight, and she hoped he would keep dancing. He was so happy.
She realized she was navigating roads from habit without even thinking. Her thoughts drove her. As she passed rosy lit trees and season’s wilting flowers, there became a familiar smell of city dust, and she realized she’d been missing from the present. Then she realized she’d driven to her house. Her drive to rekindle her heart was being undermined by habits she had set for herself long ago. She had the fleeting wish to start from scratch.
She stepped from her car, fully aware of her feet hitting the gravel driveway that lead to her warm brown house. But she wavered in the walkway. She felt as if she were being funneled into a dark old pattern. If she entered her house from the street, she would still be conformed to habit.
She resisted. The logical side of her brain told her she was being ridiculous, and telling herself a story that made things seem worse than they actually were.
She glanced down in front of her. There was a small stone path, framed by little bushes of flowers days past their prime, growing smaller with perspective as her view moved outward. The path needed weeding. The path navigated around a tree which needed pruning. It was colorful, with a welcoming essence, pulling the path towards it, and just beyond the tree, was her house. But now she didn’t see it as a cozy nest, but as a box with windows. She was living in a box. It was enclosed, and confining, and there was no view of the sky from within. At least a nest was open, but this house was a trap, and in the center, was an inviting grand door.
A brown wood door, that wasn’t grand nor small, but average in size, and dominance. Next to it was a doorbell that rang short and sweet so it wouldn’t get on her nerves. But now it did. Because ringing it would mean someone to answer the door. But there was no one on the inside of that door she wanted to see.
Standing on the outside, she was glad she had finally come out from within.
She imagined Kyle walking down her well kept path, and brushing by her tree without a moment’s thought. He would see it as a nuscence, so needy of attention. He would ring the doorbell twice, and then knock loudly. Then she could hear him groan as he decided she was too slow to answer the door, and it was less trouble to simply use his keys. So there would be a jingle,and in swept Kyle, smelling of office, and reeking of tension.
She would fake a smile so the tension would ease. He’d drop his bag full of things he didn’t care about, and embrace her. It would take a minute for the office rigidity to seep out of him, and often he wouldn’t wait that long, leaving her arms for another more important task he’d been planning on the drive home. She would understand, and distract herself with a chore she had been planning as well.
She’d learned long ago not to bother to ask him about his day, because it always put him in a rude mood, and an arguement was a waste of time. He’d look at her as if she were dumb to even bring it up. She should know better. He claimed the home was for family. The office was for work. They were not to be mixed. So instead they would mindlessly talk about a new fridge, or whose turn it was to do the shopping in rushed voices so they could return to the growing pile of tasks. She would make excuses to disappear into the other room, and just to stare out the window into the backyard a moment. The house was on a hill, sloping down into a meadow, and sometimes there would be deer, or turkey. There were creatures hidden from her view, and she longed to join them. There was a whole field to frolick in. Yet, she would always turn from the window and walk to her shadowy desk. There wasn’t time. The world was always moving, whether or not she was with it, and she needed to be on board. She would turn on the desk lamp, and slump into piles of papers that made the clock hands die. She would lose herself for the next few hours.
The thought of slumping down to more papers made her back grow rigid, and she looked up to realize the sky was growing cold and grey.
She looked down the path, and realized she couldn’t ever walk down it into the life she once lead. She didn’t want to fall into the lifeless pattern she’d created for herself.
She paused for a moment, breathing in the dusty air on her familiar street. Trees dropped leaves around her, as they always had done, and she wouldn’t be able to keep up with the sweeping. It occurred to her, her life wouldn’t fix itself if she let old ways continue to exist. There was no difference between the life she realized she didn’t want to live, and the present. She had to actively change.
Pocketing her keys, she pulled her bag over one shoulder and began to walk around the side of her house. She walked up the back porch steps, dropped her bag next to the back door, and breathed. She could clearly smell the meadow now, which reminded her of the window that was still painted shut in her bedroom that prevented her from the grassy scent. She rummaged through her bag trying to find her to do list but only managed to find old notes reminding her of her other failures.
Feeling overwhelmed, she walked back down the steps of the back porch, and down the hill into the middle of the meadow.
She twisted softly, swaying in the grasses. She looked at the gradual incline where she could see her neighbors houses. They could see her. When she first moved, they knew her first as the girl who danced in the meadow before they knew her name.
She didn’t want to dance now. She didn’t deserve to let her heart fly. She had just flaked on Kyle. There was nothing to celebrate.
She trekked up the hill, and retrieved the keys from their pocket. Pulling open the small back door, she shut out the outside world, as she settled into the inside one.
Everything was neat as she’d left it. There was her kitchen:the center of her house. It lead into all the other rooms, but it never felt like a four sectioned street. It was inviting, and it pulled her into its warm light and made her think of what home was sopposed to smell like.
When she baked, the smell would drift into her and Kyle’s bedroom. He wouldn’t be aware though. He would be in his office which was always cold, and cluttered, and she kept the door shut, usually with him inside.
The door was open now, and she peered inside to see neat stacks of organized papers, folders, and boxes. She closed her eyes to prevent them from wandering to her own desk, a flurry of wrinkled to do lists and jumbles of papers whose order only made sence the day they were placed down and left. She found herself reaching into her bag again for her to do lists, frusterated to come up with handfuls of paper clips and bandaids and anything a person was bound to need at some time or another. Dropping them back into her black hole of a bag, she stood up. There was tension rising in her stomach. She didn’t want to think about more things she had to do.
She found herself seeking protection of the bathroom. It was painted blue like the ocean, and she always felt cradled, the tension slowly allowed to drift away whenever she entered.
She walked to the mirror. She found it strange, because she usually avoided mirrors whenever possible. She never found anything good. So she would apply more foundation, eyeliner, powders, and pastes. But she felt she was covered. It wasn’t bringing out her best parts if it was blocking her face from the sun. She stooped to the sink, and let the colored water trail down into the drain. Looking back up into the mirror, she saw skin that wanted to glow without being stuffed with artificial color. She saw eyes that sparkled on their own, and lips that were naturally a color that matched her skin tone.
She pulled her hair from its protective bun. Her hair spilled down freely, and she thought back to a childhood dream to have pigtails. She smiled thinking how silly it was, her hair was always too long for pigtails to look good. She had always bunned it, or wore it down, and never risked the odd looking sight she might have experianced. But now she missed it, she had waited too long. Being a child was the time for trying things and looking a bit odd. It was expected. A child didn’t yet understand the structured ways of the world, and had permission to bend the rules as they learned what was meant to be and what wasn’t.
She grew sad, realizing her time for experimentation was over, but she hadn’t used it then and she didn’t want to let it go now. A small part of her whispered it was never over, and she nearly ran it down, before realizing no one was watching, and she could try pigtails if she wanted to.
Again, she told herself it was silly. She had work to do. Her pile of to do lists needed to be condensed, she needed to get organized. She needed to clean up her mess.
But looking at herself, she was a mess. Her hair now exploded around her shoulders, and her skin was inconsistant and blemished. She felt ashamed she’d washed her protection down the drain, but as she began to reapply it she felt pathetic.
No one was watching. She was wasting her time making herself pretty when her house was a mess and there was work to do.
She slammed the eye shadow closed. She had to prioritize. Work was most important. But as she thought back to her messy desk and her piles of papers, she wasn’t excited to embark on her chosen adventure.
She could clean her house, herself externally, or herself internally. Looking now at herself she looked sad. Her emotions were pent up. She missed her childhood. She was ashamed she let experimentation pass, and again she realised again it didn’t have to. There was no harm recreating it. If she wasn't to try pigtails, there was no harm. Curious, she pulled her brush form her drawer, and created her childhood dream. Staring back at her, the youth sparkled out. She felt her eyes lift up in a smile, as she felt the energy return. If did look off. She didn’t look professional, or rigid, or cold and factual. She looked like a girl who wanted to be undone, and all it took was the unraveling of a small thought that lead her to the realization she could create her own image, literally and figuratively. There was no right way to look.