She sighed as she stared at the rainfall running down the windowpane. Absently she twirled her hair between her fingers and images of what her life used to be like floated in and out of memory. How had her life come to this? She glanced around at a desk buried amid piles of papers, tidbits and cords for electronics that she doubted even existed anymore, or worse yet, were somewhere beneath the imposing pile. Her mind walked its way into the adjacent room where piles of clothing poured out of drawers, open closet doors and spilled onto the floor of the guest room where a computer sat on another desk buried under its own paper mountain. She closed her eyes and wished it all away.
As she opened her eyes, she laughed inwardly at the absurdity of the thought. If life were erased that simply, she wouldn’t be sitting here feeling trapped and staring out at the rain washing away the last remnants of snowfall.
In the distance the washer summoned her with a loud ding, “Time to change the load!” How stupid we humans are to condition ourselves to such idiotic sounds. She ignored it’s call, there would be time for that later….later…later….it didn’t mean anything anymore. When one pile of laundry was done it seemed there was always another to take it’s place – for every dish washed, another become soiled, it was a vicious and endless cycle.
She was once the top performer in her company’s marketing department, there was talk that she’d soon be promoted to VP of Marketing; her life was skyrocketing and soon, she would be able to take those trips to Banff and Scotland that she’d only dreamed of as a child. She wanted that promotion so badly that she’d thrown everything into her job, late nights, schmoozing events, bending over backwards to please everyone – except her husband. He’d been lost in the shuffle. He always told her not to worry about him and so, she naively believed that he was fine without her, she’d never noticed how badly they’d drifted apart, until now, when she needed him most.
Her life ended one day as she crossed the underground parking lot of her office building. An apparently distraught man who’d just been let go from the firm had decided that he wanted to “get even” with the company and so, as she hurriedly crossed the floor heels clicking loudly with each step, the life she knew was torn from her as the parking structure exploded in a shower of concrete and dust.
As the boom and shattering roar began to envelop her, she recalled intense and instantaneous fear but she also remembered how bewildered she was as her feet seemed to be propelled in front of her, like she was on some invisible conveyor belt. And how suddenly she couldn’t breathe, as if someone had punched her in the back with all of their might, knocking the air from her lungs. She remembered the dust, how thick and choking it was, filling her eyes so much she had to squeeze them tight to prevent more dust from settling on them….and how it hurt…it was grainy, grating across her eyes as if sucking up all of the moisture from them. She remembered trying to wipe her eyes, she thinks she was on her back by then, she wasn’t sure…there were so many things that maybe happened all at once….but in her mind the time sequence was way off. She couldn’t move her arms. She tried to call out but only got choked by dust.
There were loud cracking and groaning noises all around her, she realized she was somehow on her back, at least, there was a cold hard pressure against her upper back and shoulders. She squinted helplessly but only saw a grey curtain of dust. Her arms couldn’t move, her legs seemed to be somehow above her. As she lay there trying to make sense of the situation, her mind flipping ideas over and over uselessly and endlessly, a single sound broke the silence. Ding. It was the sound of the elevator arriving on a floor. Her mind formed one cohesive word – Elevator. It made no sense. She was at least 100 feet from the elevator lobby. She tried to move and found she couldn’t. Her mind began tumbling again. Cold, pressure, dust, shaking. Plane crash? Car crash! No. Earthquake? No. It seemed like hours before her mind just spun its wheels out and gave up.
Whether from exhaustion or injury, she floated with her mind off into a dream state where she could see. Realistically though, we know that there was no way for her to have seen what happened in the next two hours as rescuers moved in and cleared enough rubble that they could get someone close to her. According to reports, she was dazed and speaking to the rescuers but was in a severe state of shock. She swears she remembers watching from somewhere above as they managed to hoist her, strapped to a board, out of the hole, pass her along a line of rescuers and load her into the awaiting rescue vehicle….but there was no way she could have seen any of that. In fact, her eyes were covered for at least a week to protect them from damage done by the layer of dust that had adhered to them.
She’d heard it a million times since that day seven years ago, “You’re so lucky.” She frowned and wiped at a tear streaking her face. Was she? Was this what luck really was? Sitting here, staring at a world she no longer trusted was safe? Surviving on savings that were meant for retirement? Losing all that she’d worked so hard for? Trying to be that person again, but realizing that now, she just couldn’t measure up? Was that luck? She didn’t feel very lucky at all.
She’d been the only employee crossing that parking lot that day. Why? The parking attendant, Joe, had been able to flee his booth and make it out safely. The rumble of the explosion shook the entire building and the earthquake evacuation plan worked to a T, so everyone had managed to get out before the first floor offices collapsed into the lot below. The rest of the building was evacuated with most employees not really knowing why. The firm managed to keep operating via telecommute and rented office space – she was given work to do at home but found that some days she just couldn’t face it. Her productivity failed and she was let go.
This was luck. This was what it had come to. A house she couldn’t keep up with – the simplest of chores overwhelming her and sending her struggling for air curled up on the floor. Nights lost as her mind ticked away at it’s secret task. A husband who no longer had time for her as he struggled to make the bill payments and keep a roof over their heads. She often wondered if he resented her now.
They called it post traumatic stress disorder, her bosses called it, “Take some time to get back to yourself.” She called it living in hell and all any professional could tell her was, “Forget about who you were, let’s start living as who you are now.” Who was she? What kind of person can’t keep up with the laundry? What kind of person lives like this?? Why could her bosses not see that she walked into a parking lot one morning seven years ago and essentially died that day…this? this person was a whole new employee.
Her insides quivered and she consciously inhaled deeply, pursing her lips and slowly exhaling. She pressed each finger tip to her thumb and silently counted each touch repeatedly until the quiver subsided. She inhaled deeply again and watched a raindrop as it slipped silently down the windowpane.
“Okay, laundry, here I come.”