They went to school in the morning that Friday and wouldn’t be returning until the morning of the following Friday; my parenting week had come to an end. The moment I saw their backpacks disappear out the front door, I frenetically began organizing the crap on the tables in the living room. The pens, papers, books, remote controls, and graded school papers could all be tucked away for seven days. The empty glass that was kept in the refrigerator could be put in the sink and cleaned. The tiny, little spots of dried Ramen noodles could be plucked from the living room carpet. (How does dried Ramen even get into the carpet? And how come I was left to clean it?)
I sipped coffee and thought several times of putting on music, but each time I got distracted by another item, also out of place. “I haven’t been alone with my thoughts in days,” I thought. After two hours, four cigarettes and half a pot of coffee, I was satisfied.
The beds were made. The dishes were washed and drying on the side of the sink. The floors had all been vacuumed; the vacuum cleaner had been emptied of lint and dirt. The house was quiet and I, alone for the first time in a week, sat on my couch staring off into the middle distance.