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Clutch Part 1- "drop off"

1. Drop Off

They left me in the empty living room in the empty house. Watery October light on the bare wood floors. The room echoey as words uncushioned bounced off the walls. Drifts of dry leaves rattled across unraked walkways.

It had been a full house not long before, but now emptiness was the most obvious thing about it. They stood where the piano had been—a blankness on the wall where the deep green I had painted gave way to dull gray because I had not been able to move the piano to complete the job. They looked down at me as I sat on the air mattress which was where the couch had once faced the empty hearth. In summer it had been the house of a family. By autumn past its peak, it was as desolate as the branches of the tulip tree that arched above it.

It wasn’t an emptiness asking to be filled; it was a showcasabsence.

The parents had returned me to this house with the air mattress in the living room and the full dumpster in the driveway. Every empty space had once held something.

The only things left now were the books that my husband didn't want. They were piled up on the back porch. These were the remnants of my online book-selling venture. These books I acquired, not because I wanted them, but because I thought someone else would want them enough to pay money for them. All of the other things he didn’t want were overflowing and sodden in the dumpster in the driveway. Somewhere in someone’s garage were the boxes of things that he had decided to save for me. Perhaps the dumpster was too full to accommodate the books no one wanted.

We had driven back from Maryland where I had spent just over a week in the home of my parents which was not the home of my childhood but the home of their retirement. I had become in the course of this period difficult and awkward to have. I’d never wanted to be there in the first place. First brother-in-law had come and taken me away because someone had called First Sister and told her it was dangerous for me to be left alone.

I came with bottles and bottles of amber tubes of medications from the hospital. I had medications that only existed to prevent the side effects of other medications.

The hospital had diagnosed me as bipolar and then told me I was going to have to take these drugs for the rest of my life. They told me I had a strict schedule of what to take and when to take it, whether to take it with food or without food. If it was without food, then there would be an interval before or after food. Some things should be consumed prior to eating. Others should be taken after eating. Sometimes it was an hour buffer; other times thirty minutes was fine. I had written everything down on a scrap of paper. The schedule had to be adhered to with absolute precision. I had been informed by people wearing scrubs that there would be terrible repercussions for veering from the complexity of it all. I had pamphlets in my purse, glossy ones featuring cured people doing happy things. Happy things of course are things with gardens and children and spouses and furniture. Things I no longer had. According to the pamphlets, medications would fix that. So the medication was truly important.

My mother who worked as a nurse for forty years didn’t think I needed to be so precise about the timing of things. My concerns about timing irritated her. That week at the home of the parents contained within thousands of opportunities for me mess up and my parents didn’t seem to take my fate seriously.

After the five hours of I-95 tedium they didn’t want to linger. We had been to a diner and now we were in the living room. I petted the dogs who had missed me during the time they had been alone in the hours. My father had his keys in his hand. My mother pulled her coat close around her. There were no chairs, so they just stood as I plugged in the inflatable to make my bed.

I had not been good company all day. We’d arrived at the diner forty-five minutes past the moment when I was supposed to take the amber hexagon, which meant that I had to recalculate when I could ingest the emerald and pink capsule and then the powder-blue bifurcated oblong would need some adjusting as well. Which meant that I’d be playing catch up for the rest of my life. I was distraught.

My mother had not been sympathetic. My father --never one to countenace unrest --had become quiet and testy, his car keys rattling in his hand.

“Come on,” he said to one of us but it was not clear who. Was I to be less truculent, to calm myself and be reasonable? Or was he aching to be away from this place?

My mother thrust the local newspaper with the want ads into my hands. She told me I needed to find an apartment. The house was going to be sold in a few weeks, so soon I would not have a place to live. My mother told me that I would have to give up the dogs because no one would rent me a place with dogs.

“You must get rid of them,” she told me.

They had done their duty. I was deposited in my home and they needed to get back on 95 and return to own home which was full of an enormous amount of furniture and shelves and shelves of knickknackery. Couches and chairs stuff with stuff. Throw pillows and teapots. Boxes and books. Prints of hunting scenes and line drawings of London bridges. They were hunters and gatherers of ephemera and pseudo antiquities. The liked their things.

The emptiness would not be something they’d take to well, even if their eldest daughter had not be stuck right in the middle of it.

I watched my mother and my father walked down the steps from the neat little front porch of the now empty Yellow House. It was set up high and though it was a modest side-hall colonial it had borrowed a certain grandeur from the appearance of tallness. They went down those steps to that car and waved goodbye to me. I waved back before I retreated backwards into the chill of the house.


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