Somewhere Along the Colorado River
A Young Woman's Need for Quiet
I am sitting at the kitchen table four feet from the sink. It is early morning, and I am the only person present. It is quiet in a loose sense. The only sounds I hear are that of the windbreaker I am wearing, brushing against itself, and the bottom of my coffee cup meeting the table. An attachment begins to form between the sounds and me.
I continue sitting in the chair at the kitchen table. I look around, my line of sight jumping frames. I enjoy making observations before intrusive thoughts reign over me. My eyes rest on the window above the sink.
The window is not large, but it is sufficient for eyes to soar through, especially the eyes of someone who is washing dishes - a scene meant to remind the person, unbeknownst to them, that they are not in a prison cell.
I turn to the French door straight ahead, some nine feet away. There are six rectangle windows designed into it - another ocular gateway.
Through the rectangles, I see cars leaving and entering the neighborhood. There are more cars than people out there in direct contact with air. I resist a small wave of sadness entangled in some idea about people and society.
Sitting in my chair, I struggle to decide whether to get up or not. I look around the kitchen once more to see if there is any item powerful enough to be the deciding factor. I notice the refrigerator, and, more interestingly, the things resting on it. The refrigerator itself is smaller than average, so I can make out the items without guessing. I see a stack of magazines, and on top of that, there is a small black book.
The printed matter were not placed on top of the refrigerator with care. In fact, it appears that the stack used to sit somewhere else, possibly on the kitchen table I am at now. The stack does not line up near perfect with the refrigerator. It has been placed diagonally, and one of the magazines in the middle is trying to crawl out. The small black book could -
My eyes dart back to the French door. I see a car pulling up. It is not a car I recognize. Not that I am expecting to see a car I recognize. No one I know would even be able to find me if I asked them to visit me over their weekend.
The driver’s passenger door swings open and I see my mom. She is holding the door open while talking to the driver who I cannot see. As she turns her head to help herself out the car, I see a large smile across her face. I hear her thank the driver, though muffled - as you would hear in old, offscreen dialogue.
The car speeds off to the right and my mom walks in a hurried manner towards the French door, towards me. I notice she is carrying a full grocery bag.
She yells my name, still smiling.
“Kristina! Where are you?! I won big!”
Through the rectangles, I come to see her and the bag she is carrying more clearly. She reaches the French door, her facing taking up one of the top rectangles. She is two moments away from opening the door. I do not know how to respond. She opens the door. I decide on a way.
“Hey! What’s going on?!”
I make sure my eyes light up when I ask this. I make sure she notices my smile growing, hoping she takes it to mean that my excitement cannot be contained.
She sits down at the kitchen table next to me, letting the grocery bag fall to the ground, the bag still wrapped around her wrist. Her smile remains. With purpose, she begins to take money out of her purse.
“I won $48,000! The casino took out taxes, so I actually have less. Kristina, I didn't even know that I won. All of a sudden there was -”
I drown out her voice. I am now just following her eyes and teeth. I am not overcome with joy. I am overcome with all the ways this day can unfold. I feel my mind growing tired, shutting down. I force myself to refocus my attention on her. I hear her again.
“Listen to me, Kristina. I am going to give you $20,000 now. I am going to put $10,000 in the bedroom, and I am going to go back with the rest. But first I am going to shower. I have been there all night and smoked three packs of cigarettes. Disgusting.”
“Why don’t you sleep, too?”
“No, I don’t need to sleep yet. And I have a room there. The floorman gave it to me. So when you want to eat, come. We can eat at the buffet and you can sleep in the room. Okay?”
“Okay, I’ll see.”
“What, you’ll see? Are you not happy about $20,000?”
“No, I am! That’s not, but yeah, I will get ready later. I need to shower, too.”
“Okay, good. I will shower as soon as I put food away. I got some things we needed.”
She gets up to go to the refrigerator. The space gained between her and me restores some calm inside me. I watch her put away groceries as she continues to recount how she landed the jackpot. I am still not listening. People care to listen to the same story only so many times. She leaves the kitchen to go shower.
I feel relief being alone in the kitchen again. It is quiet. I pour myself another cup of coffee from the pot in front of me. This time I add sugar to my cup. A part of me knows. A part of me knows this sugar is going to be the last form of kindness I will feel in the days that lie ahead.
I have to keep my mind busy until she leaves. I grip my cup’s handle. I exhale. I look up. Everything looks the same, but everything feels different now. My eyes jump around the room again. They land where they left off. The top of the refrigerator is the same as before. I cannot see the dust that blankets the top, but I imagine it there. And the small black book -
“Kristina, I got to go. I am going to shower there. Come later.”
“Oh, why are you going all of a sudden?”
“My friend has to take his wife to the doctor, so he can only take me back now. He is here.”
“See you later.”
I watch her leave. She closes the door behind her, and I see her getting smaller through one of the rectangles. She leaves one rectangle and reappears in another. A short diagonal. I see the car from earlier pull up into one of the bottom rectangles. The timing is impeccable.
I hold my stare through that last rectangle. The car and my mom leave, but I am waiting for something else to appear to break my gaze. Two cars, back-to-back, enter the neighborhood. I exhale loudly. I don’t have time to weigh decisions.
I get up from the chair. I walk to the bedroom that holds my suitcase and backpack. It’s been five weeks and I haven’t unpacked. I open the suitcase, which is already unzipped, and pull out two days’ worth of outfits that can fit into my backpack. I unzip my backpack and place the outfits inside. They fit. I am already wearing the windbreaker for when it gets a little cold. I rush to the bathroom. I put my hairbrush, toothbrush, toothpaste, and deodorant in the front pocket of my backpack. My charger is plugged into the bathroom outlet. I take it out. I put it in the backpack. Other things, like face wash and perfumes, will be sorted out later. I zip everything up.
I take a fast step then stop. I realize I forgot to put the $20,000 in the backpack. I exhale. I walk over to the kitchen table. I unzip my backpack and take everything out. I put $300 in my back pocket and the rest inside the backpack. I place my outfits back in, this time on top of the money. I zip it up. I slide my hand in my back pocket one more time to make sure the $300, as well as my ID, are there. Everything is where it needs to be.
I am standing by the kitchen table. I look around at everything one more time. Things look a little different from up here. Before I leave, I look to the refrigerator. I am a good head taller than it. Without much thought, I walk to it and grab the small black book. I feel its dusty cover between my fingers and thumb. I don’t look at it. I walk towards the French door. I turn the knob and step out.
I am outside and close the door behind me. A feeling tells me I will remember the sound of this door closing. As I adjust my backpack and standing position, I hear the crunching sound of gravel beneath my feet that made its way here by wind or by someone’s carelessness. Right now, I do not care to make a guess.
I take my first step towards the street. There is no more gravel out of place.