i woke up to the sound of an alarm going off. at first i thought it was mine and, half asleep, i rolled over and slapped the clock. but the beeping didn’t stop.
i opened my eyes and stretched in bed. i remember distinctly the feeling of savoring one more moment under my warm covers. but the alarm kept going off and with every beep i felt a little ping of nervousness.
i got out of bed and followed the sound into my parents’ room. the alarm was beep beep beeping and read 6:30 on the dot. ugh, i thought, it’s so early. i hit the button and suddenly it stopped. my ears were flooded with the sound of silence. if my parents weren’t in bed anymore why was it so quiet?
i peeked into the guest room and found my mom asleep. often she would go in there if my dad had trouble sleeping, which seemed to be happening more and more. i walked across the hall and looked into my sister’s room. she was in her bed, surrounded by a mountain of stuffed animals – check. two out of three.
i moved downstairs and once again was struck by the absence of any sound or movement. everything was too quiet. my senses quickly became heightened as my brain worked to figure out what was going on. i scanned the living room, the kitchen and stopped at the dining table.
breakfast was laid out as if i was in a restaurant. a bowl, a spoon, a box of cereal and one banana. carefully arranged, everything in its place. there was even a glass of orange juice. the table was set but where was my dad? even at the time it struck me as chilling.
something small started gnawing inside. something very small.
i went into the basement. a few weeks ago i had come downstairs early and found him on the exercise bike. i crossed my fingers that he would be there but now it was dark and still. i looked in both rooms – no sign of him. i felt a cold wave wash over my whole body. the gnawing got stronger. something was wrong.
i raced back up the stairs, back through the kitchen the living room the sitting room. i moved through the rooms of my life in a blur, compelled by fear and a need to know. still no dad. i charged up the stairs and checked every bedroom again, opening every door and sweeping through every closet. checking, checking checking – a habit, a symptom i continue to this day. my heart was racing. the gnawing was stronger and stronger. where where where. where was my dad?
wait, i thought. i forgot.
i forgot about the laundry room.
slowly, this time, i walked downstairs. on some level i knew. he would be there.
i stood outside of the laundry room door and paused, just for a second. inhabiting the space between what was and what was to come. my heart was beating in my ears and i was shaking, ever so slightly.
i put out my hand and turned the doorknob. and without realizing it i stepped out of my childhood. out of my life. out of myself.
i opened the door and i found my dad. that’s where i finally found him. a single light bulb shined overhead, illuminating him and illuminating me in the darkness of our home.
that’s as much as i can say for now.
i was only 13. i was still a little girl.