Swallowed by my couch, I open my eyes to blurry grades of light and shadow. I am warm and numb. Eventually, I see the horizontal beams, created by the sunlight passing through my blinds, striping my walls and highlighting the molecules in the air. I watch the the tiny specks falling like pixie dust. I had dozed off again, surrounded by a bunch of worn blankets and mismatched pillows. I can hear Jessica Fletcher. She had just solved another murder and was explaining the motive to a stunned acquaintance of the killer, while a perfectly costumed policeman quietly walks the compliant killer away. I missed the entire episode. Maria always adored ‘Murder She Wrote’ and every now and again I watch it. I remember joking with her,
“Anyone who crosses paths with Angela Lansbury has a pretty good chance of either be killed or arrested for murder. "
Maria would laugh and say, “She certainly seems to be a dark cloud, but isn’t she cute?”
I know I should get off the couch and do something productive. I have allowed the complications in my life to accumulate and instead of solving each problem, I have become weighed down by them. Some problems are large but most are not. They are the simple mundane tasks that, when compounded, defeat one that lives a static life. I have bills to pay, the grass needs to be cut, the fridge is practically empty and I’m almost out of fresh clothes. There is also the matter of the burned out outlet.
“Dad! Come upstairs quick!”
Alex was vacuuming her room when the electrical outlet popped and began to smolder. That was five months ago.
I should get up.
My friends Eddie and Jay invited me to lunch but I told them I was too busy.
“We haven’t seen you around in a while. We miss you. Let’s go to Javier’s for lunch.”
“Sorry Eddie, I have so much to do and I’m falling way behind.”
“Of course. Jay and I were just concerned and wanted to make sure…”
They knew better to push and they were good friends like that. They make sure to let me know that they are always available. Always have been. I think it makes them feel good to reach out to me every now and then. I don’t think either of them have ever forgotten the look on my face that day. It was raining and cold. It was the hardest day I’ve ever endured.
“You will get through this man. We are always here for you.”
Jay said what he had to. What he felt I needed to hear, but you never recover. You never completely get through it. Alex only had me.
The sunlight is expanding and shining on the French doors that are opposite my couch. I look beyond the open glass doors, into the living room and through the front bay window. A man and three children are passing by on bicycles. One kid is falling behind, slowing them down and the other two children are clearly annoyed as they look back at him and yell something indecipherable. The man stops his bike and looks on with a smile. The laggard clumsily pedals as if he is going up a hill as fast as he can. They pass my line of sight. I bet that guy heard it a thousand times.
“Cherish these moments. They go by fast. Don’t take them for granted…”
These cliches disarm their intended effect; and ironically, the true understanding only sets in after the time has passed and gone. I did my best to enjoy those times but I’m sure I missed a few things and sometimes forgot what was truly important.
“Dad, do you want to see what I made in school? Mrs. Martin said it was the best painting in class.”
“Maybe later, I’m busy right now.”
Above the French doors I notice something that’s been there ever since we moved into our house twelve years ago. I realize that just like people, things can be taken for granted too. A home is filled with these little things that we acquire, place and forget. They exist in that exact spot from the moment we place them and they remain there, sometimes for years. Sometimes beyond the life of the person who determined their place. A thing such as this was a small ceramic angel figurine with a gold halo and a wick protruding from the top. It had a kind, simple face and a basic idealized shape hand-painted in subtle shades of off-white. When we first moved into the house, I was painting the family room when Maria came home excitedly.
“There is a small shop on Main Street that sells the cutest things. I saw this and knew I had to get it. There is something about her that is special and I thought you would feel the same.”
Maria placed the angel on the thick chunk of molding above the French doors. She has remained there, untouched, ever since. I never really paused and thought of this since that day. I think of all the things that the angel has seen as she quietly rests in our home with her eyes eternally open. I think of all the Holidays, birthdays, laughter and all the other special moments. I realize that she was there for them all. She was with us the whole time. There was also the hard times such as when I lost my job, when I feared I could no longer support Alex or keep our home. She was also there when Alex and I cried as we said goodbye before Alex left for College.
As she rests on that thick chunk of molding above the French doors, I look at her and smile.
Sound fades back into my head. I realize that a new episode of ‘Murder She Wrote’ has already begun.
I sit up.
Time to change that outlet.