It was quiet. The recent snowfall had blanketed the street muffling the occasional sound of a vehicle driving down the street. There was no sun visible. It was hidden behind a dark bank of clouds which seemed to indicate the storm was not quite over. Most of the world had not yet awoken, unlike her.
She had awoken from a dream, the remnants of which were fleeting. There was snow and an alcoholic beverage on fire, but the visions hazy and disjointed even now as the last tendril of memory slips away and is lost.
She had been dreaming a lot of late and while never the same dream, the overlying theme was always the same; work and stress. But last night’s dream had been different. Perhaps that is why she did not roll over and go back to sleep.
Instead, she found herself staring out her window. Looking at the evergreen branch, now brown and lifeless, a silent sentinel, a witness of her solitude and quiet musings, she wondered if it would ever be removed. She thought perhaps not and she had no ladder.
The ghost of a movement caught her eye then, another testament to the fury of another storm long gone by. A piece of the eve had come loose and was hanging down, now swaying slowly in the aftermath of the blizzard. If she looked to her left, she could see the drainage pipe that had been dislodged from the gutter on the roof during the previous hurricane. The drainage pipe was set at an angle but as it was not moving, she returned her attention to the fluttering piece of the roof in front of her. It was now swaying violently and the room had gotten colder, perhaps signaling a new onslaught of the snowstorm.
He was staring again, waiting expectantly. For what, she was not sure, for warmth or food. She could not always tell what he wanted and she suspected there were times he wanted something but didn’t even know himself, only that he wanted it. But that was his prerogative and he answered to no one.
Unable to delay the inevitable any longer, she put on her Game Day jersey and headed downstairs. It was a daily routine. She would go downstairs to the kitchen and pick up the breakfast bowl from the prior day. Taking it to the sink, she would let hot water run over the bowl. While the bowl was soaking, she would go to his room, once called the laundry room, and clean out his litter pan. Returning to the kitchen, she would clean his bowl and give him fresh food. If his place mat needed cleaning or the water dish needed refilling, she would take care of that as well.
On a normal day, she would get lunch and beverages together if she were driving into the office or, if working from home, would brew a nice cuppa and head into the living room to plug in her laptop. That had been her routine for the past 9 months.
Today, however, was not a normal day. Today she made hot chocolate…with real Dutch cocoa, unsweetened of course, and milk mixing in her own amount of sugar.
After making the hot chocolate and taking care of him, she made her way back upstairs. Navigating the stairs proved to be difficult. Her leg muscles were protesting after her gym session the other day. It made walking difficult, let alone climbing up and down stairs. She went back to her room and sat looking out the window once again. The sky was brighter, at least to the east. The sun was making an appearance, although it was filtered by the cloudbank. Perhaps the sun would burn off the haze, perhaps it would snow again. It made little difference to her. She doubted she’d be going anywhere for a while. Which left only one question: What was she going to do today?
There were a million things screaming for her attention, things left undone, but she worked long hours and she worked every weekend…all weekend long. She would have had more time had she just been able to get out of bed, but the biting cold, the darkness of the early morning and the lingering traces of her nightmares have kept her paralyzed. She couldn’t rise until mid-morning, almost lunch time really, and she would have to set immediately to work, working far later than she had intended. By the time the laptop was powered down, the house was dark, the sun already having dipped below the tree line. It was always too late to take care of things in the failing light and she was always so tired.
Whether for good or ill, she found herself with an abundance of time and was not sure how to use it. Excess expenditures needed to be cut and the pool of overtime hours was the first thing to go. Whether working overtime was a way to pay the extra bills coming in or a means to avoid the world outside she hardly knew. The truth was probably somewhere in the middle, though. While in the past she would not need to plan her time, she now found the necessity of it. It is a difficult transition to make to go from having no free time to finding one has time on their hands, which has always been a problem for her. Suddenly having all the time back is crippling, she thought. She had become responsible for her own time which meant having to make decisions about her time, a thought she did not relish.
Determined to break clear of the cloudbank, the sun glinted off the ice crystals stuck to the limb that is stuck in her window frame. It’s beautiful, like diamonds, and another distraction to keep her from making any kind of a decision. She can barely look away. It’s easier than having to think.
So what to make of the day? She could write out all the bills for the month. Finances had to be reevaluated in light of yesterday’s news from her boss. She could finish washing the dishes. The big things have been getting washed, but the flatware is just piling up in the sink and soon there will be no clean forks to eat with. She could shovel more snow, but she took a long lunch yesterday working from home to shovel the sidewalk and driveway. It had added stress to her back and she was broken. She could put away the Christmas decorations. It is less than a week to Valentine’s Day and all the Christmas decorations are still up with the tree still standing in between two rooms without the top attached. Boxing up Christmas meant taking boxes up to the attic, many boxes, which would cause her leg and back muscles to protest further. She could read documents for work which she would not have to clock in to do. She could fold the prior two weeks laundry, but that would also hurt her back. She folded yesterday’s laundry last night and it was somewhat painful. She could write book reviews, reviews that are way overdue, at least a dozen. She could catch up with friends and family, actually making the attempt to contact people. She could surf the web or clean up her email which she hasn’t done in weeks so the inbox is overflowing. She should spend an hour on the elliptical, but wasn’t sure if her muscles could handle the additional stress. She could put away the baking ingredients from Christmas she never used again. She had planned to bake additional batches of cookies, to bring to work, to take to the comic book store, for the neighbors, but there was just no time. She should clean her niece’s room. It has been piling up with stuff to sort through for storage. She had promised to get it cleaned up so that it would feel like a real bedroom and not a storage room. She needed to get back to emptying out the storage facility, especially now that the additional income was no longer going to be available and the storage facility was expensive.
So many things, too many things to do. Where to start? It’s all a bit overwhelming and she sighs. She looks out the window again and sees that the branch stuck to her window frame is now dripping with icicles. Watching the melting water drip from the branches, she decides she had better get started with the day. Not able to decide what to do, she makes the only choice that would bring her any solace.
She opens a book.