An Orderly Life
Bev Vines-Haines
My house relies on me for survival.  Plain and simple.   I know the things that can go wrong.  My lifelong habit of avoiding print or broadcast news only protects me to a degree.  People love to gather around the water cooler outside my office and rehash the worst stories:  storms, fires, floods, break-ins and worse.  

This morning they discuss an arson fire that has displaced twenty families at an apartment complex.   My heart begins to race. Thoughts of calamity cause my breath to catch in my throat, blocking air from moving in or out.   

Fighting for control, I wipe my sweaty hands on my skirt, tell my boss I have a migraine and head for home.  During the drive I sing the Happy House song sixteen times, once for every block I travel.    


The entire song requires five repetitions, sung to a precise tune and then drummed out rhythmically with both hands on the steering wheel.    If I fail to complete the song before I reach the end of each block, I am forced to go back to the parking lot and start over.  

Today I am lucky.  Sixteen blocks.  Sixteen perfect renditions of Happy House.  I pull into the driveway, pat the garage door opener seven times and then push the button.  Once the door opens, I scan the garage's cavernous interior.  Not a single thing hangs on the walls.  The floors are pristine, painted white to match the walls.  My car is the only thing allowed inside.   


I sit in the car and listen as the door closes behind me.  Safe.  I count to a hundred.  Slowly.  Seven times.  Then I exit the car, hurry to the kitchen door and unlock it.  

Inside, I take a deep breath and savor the sense of a well-ordered life.  Here the rugs are straight.  The cupboards clean.  Trash is taken outside twice a day.  All things are stored alphabetically and by size.  Nothing in this home is left to chance.   

I want a cup of tea.  Chamomile.  I take the stove knobs out of my purse and slide them back in place.  It is a particular fear of mine that the cat will step on a knob while leaping to the stove while I'm away and the burner will flare.  The cat could then catch fire and in his fear, run around the house igniting one thing after another.  

The tea calms and warms me.  I sit in my rocker and let all the stress and panic ooze out through my feet.   


First published: August, 2012
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