Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The Woman on the Floor

The woman on the floor was young. In her thirties. Her bandana kept her brown curly hair, that was only hinting a few strands of gray, out of her face while she scrubbed the kitchen floor.  The smell of oven-roasted free range chicken from the Market of Choice grocery store down the block permeated the house and the woman’s stomach growled. But hunger wasn’t the only thing distracting her.
            Normally her two children fighting with each other over somebody touching somebody, or not sharing the computer echoed through her brain – combined with the two dogs racing across the hardwood floors and growling in their play – prevented complete thoughts. But today one was upstairs reading and the other was sick and taking a nap. The dogs were sleeping on the couch, each with a head resting on one of the arms.
            The woman scratched at her forehead with her wrist and sniffed. The dishwasher hummed its sloshy hum and she continued scrubbing apple cider and dirt-encrusted dog drool off the walnut floors.
            The other thing distracting her was her unsettled, restless thoughts. They ping-ponged and pinballed around the desire in her mind.
Unsettled because there was so much she craved that didn’t seem  available to her, at least right now, and she felt guilty for wanting more when she already had so much – she didn’t deserve any more blessings than she already had. She had enough. And she was filled with gratitude for those things. A loving husband; beautiful, funny, unique children; a gorgeous house; friends and food.
But restless because maybe she did deserve more. It was every person’s birthright to pursue his passion and happiness, right?
The woman dumped out the dirty water from the pink washtub and re-filled it with new, hot water after squeezing out the dishrag she knitted last Fall.
She thought of the French language books littering her office floor that begged perusal and the European cruise she longed for. She tallied up the number of friendships she’d started over the years that had faltered and dribbled into nothing. She craved the solitude of writing her novel and the peace and enjoyment she received from reading. And then she thought of all the responsibilities and self-imposed obligations that prevented her from any of those things.
Going to Europe by herself would be lonely, and she’d miss her family, but if they came with her it would be too costly, and afford no time for writing. Or reading, for that matter. And some of the people she felt drawn to befriend were ones that her family disapproved of. Sort-of. Actually, that was hardly fair and untrue to boot. Her husband didn’t disapprove of her friends, just the type of relationship she wanted, and how much time that it would take away from the rest of the family.
She craved closeness and intimacy from many people and worried and wondered again why it was that all her closer relationships petered out. She was sure she was the common denominator in this pattern, but what was it that happened, what was it that she’d do to pre-maturely end these friendships?
The woman sat on her butt and extended her right leg to give it a rest from kneeling on it. She struck out at the blackened floor again. Her elbow ached, too, and she wondered if the chicken were done yet and if she should start the rice yet.
Was it fear of closeness, despite her desire for it? Did she back away from the friendship right as the potential for closeness was realized? Was it too high of expectations for the friendship and when she was disillusioned by her own hand, she’d drift away and then think it was the other person that had done the drifting? Was it a craving for a characteristic the other person showed that was lacking in her own self that attracted her in the first place, and not any real common interests that could hold a friendship together, so that without any contributions of spirit and conversation, the friendship faded?
The woman dumped the water again and washed her hands. She rinsed out the sink and dried it with a polishing cloth, then checked on the children and let the dogs out, then back in again.
 She poured herself a mug of blackberry tea and turned on the movie “Anna and the King” with Jodie Foster and dreamed of travel because it was easier than answering those other questions.
She’d been asking them for many years; they could wait for a couple more hours.

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