Searching through my pages and pages of stories this morning, I came to this one. And for some reason I feel compelled to share it again. It was shared maybe last Christmas. But it should be shared a lot more often.
She walks into the trailer and immediately she feels the cold, nearly as brisk as the air outside.
The heat. She’s turned it down to fifty, all she can afford.
She reaches for the switch on the wall and closes her eyes, hopes for more than just electricity, but the lights do not come on.
The lights do not come on.
She’s been gone twenty-two hours, working a double, then longer. Her check will be only about $150, not even enough to pay for the dark, the missing warmth.
She cannot linger with this though. She has to move.
She takes off her shoes, leaves her jacket on. She walks to the refrigerator as the holes in her socks expose the bottoms of her feet to the cold, reminding her.
Slowly she pulls the door open. She is unsure.
There is some milk. There is one egg. She thinks there is bread in the cupboard, the only one with a door on it, the one she uses so she can feel better about things, like she’s a person with cupboard doors.
Then she realizes she cannot cook the egg. The electric. It’s been turned off. Pain shoots up her back, the same pain that is there all the time. It reminds her.
Still, she cannot linger.
There is a soft banana on her clean and dirty counter tops and she reaches for it. She pulls off the skin as she walks down the hallway, avoiding that one place on the carpet.
She moves toward the bedrooms where her children used to sleep. They’ve been gone for almost a year now, but she misses them the same as the day they were taken. She misses everything the same.
Entering her bedroom, she slowly removes her coat and shivers, grabs the once fluffy robe and pulls it on. The tie is missing so she hugs it tightly with one arm as she begins to unmake the bed with the other. Her bank account is overdrawn. She has no credit. The electricity was turned off and soon everything else will be too, but she has a made bed. Every day she has a made bed.
Still dressed in the clothes she’s been wearing for twenty hours, she climbs in. These are warmer than her pajamas which are in the bottom of a laundry basket anyway. She was taking them to the laundry mat when she got the call to work for far less money than she needs.
She pulls the thin blanket more snuggly around her and curls up, then begins to curl more and more and more. She curls into a shape as small as she can get.
Then she gets smaller. She gets smaller and smaller and smaller. She gets as small as any person has ever been. Even smaller. She is trying to maker her body into exactly what she feels she is.
A voice speaks to her then. It tries to say that today is no different than the last thousand days. In some ways, it whispers, it is better. There was a banana to eat. A glass of milk is left. It has been worse than this, the voice says. It has been so much worse. Hang on.
Suddenly though, hanging on just hurts too much. She is too lost and broken for hanging on, and as she closes her gritty eyes she hopes that her heart will stop beating. She truly hopes with her last waking breath that her heart will simply stop.
It is unclear how much times goes by when she is startled awake by the closing of her front door, an act that shakes the tiny trailer. She holds her breath. She does not move. She listens.
For a moment there is nothing.
Then she hears it. She hears, but she does not understand.
Slowly and painfully she unravels from the cocoon she has made of herself. She rises from the bed and cautiously opens the door. The sound is louder now. She is more sure of what she is hearing, but still she does not understand.
Moving down the dark hallway the music gets louder and she can see soft light coming from the living room. Her heart begins to race with awe, as if something deep inside of her knows what she will find, knows what it means.
She enters what used to be her dull living room with only a torn couch and a small television on a card table. Now it is different.
There is a tree in the corner.
In the corner of her living room there is a tree. It is adorned with twinkling white lights. Lights. There are lights in her home and she wonders how they knew. How did they know that the lights would have to be battery operated, that they could not be plugged in? Tears stream down her face. They flow and flow and she wonders and wonders. What else? What else do they know?
There are red bulbs too. There are red bulbs and sliver icicles, a soft white angel resting on top. The skirt around the tree is gold with a snowy edge and there is a small beautifully wrapped gift sitting on it.
She does not understand, but she does.
She kneels down, reaches for the gift just as she realizes that the music is coming from the kitchen and she turns. She turns and sees more.
She sees that her counters are covered with paper grocery bags. There are groceries on her counter and her slow and steady tears become hard and fast and she can barely stand as she moves toward the kitchen because she knows there is even more than this.
She opens the refrigerator and it is full. It is so full.
There is milk. There is juice. There are fruits and vegetables and dinners and more and more and more and there is ice packed all around it and a note that says her refrigerator will be running again in the morning.
Her refrigerator will be running again in the morning and she drops to her knees.
She drops to her knees with a Christmas tree in the next room and a gift below it, with music playing and her counters and refrigerator full of food.
She drops to her knees . . .
. . . and she believes.