Sometimes my life seems surreal. Six months ago, I traded my five bedroom, three bathroom, 3000 square foot house for a 900 square foot two bedroom apartment I share with my twins. The neighbors smoke skunk weed, the stench sometimes so strong I can taste it. The woman upstairs laughs maniacally when they’re having sex on their creaky bed. The creaking is slow, and then builds up to a crescendo. I’m loathe to imagine exactly what’s so amusing. The kitchen sink is leaking. Again. And, it’s glorious. I wake up without that familiar feeling of dread. When I’m at work I don’t have an escalating sense of dread as the clock ticks closer to time to go home. I don’t have to hold my breath when I walk in the door after work, waiting to see what kind of mood my husband is in. I don’t have to ask permission before settling on what I’m going to make for dinner. I can hang out with my kids without my husband demanding that I spend time with him. I can stay up late without being told how selfish and ungrateful I am.
I feel like a teenager again. I’m not quite sure what to do with myself. So, my daughter and I went grocery shopping. Yup, I’m living on the edge. But, you have to understand something. I went shopping right before dinner and didn’t get back until way after dinnertime. And, the world kept spinning. No one was calling me on the phone asking when I’d be back. No one was texting me threatening messages because I was out when I was “supposed to be home”. I went to the Asian grocery store in another town and bought some Shaoxing rice wine. Whoever thought that such a thing even existed? It’s for a recipe I want to make. A recipe that I decided upon all by myself. We went home and got out of the car. And that’s when an unfortunate series of events started.
My upstairs neighbors (yes, those ones) were walking to their apartment at the same time we were. I pleasantly said hello and then something came over me. I still don’t know what exactly what happened. I said hello and then, “Hey, I’m glad I ran into you. I’ve been wondering if there’s anything we do that annoys you.” The man said, “No, we can’t even tell there’s anyone living downstairs from us. We never hear you guys.” We all shared a bonding moment. Then, he asked, “Is there anything we do that annoys you?” I’m not sure what look came over my face, but in that instance I had a flashback of a creaking bed and deranged laughter. I smiled and said, “No, I hardly ever hear you guys. Sometimes I wonder if you’re ever even home!” And then we all turned and walked to our respective apartments. I thought my daughter was going to choke while holding back her laughter. I have a regrettable affinity for putting my foot in my mouth.
We walked into the apartment and put the groceries down. Par for the course, my daughter walked away and said, “I’ll be right back.” Moments later I could hear the bathroom fan running. Sometimes I think she goes in there, sits on the edge of the tub and surfs the web with her phone while I finish whatever it is I’m doing. I sighed and turned around to grab a bag of groceries. Unbeknownst to me, my daughter had put the bag with the wine teetering on the edge of the counter. In a split second, it fell onto the tile with a crash and shattered. I yelped and spun around to see what broke. As I turned, my foot caught on the plastic grocery bag and I lurched forward. As I fell, I let out a blood curdling scream. I lay there on the floor of my dining room, wedged between the counter, the trash can and the dining room table. I ruefully wondered how many hours it would take for one of my kids to find my dead body. My daughter was in the bathroom with her earbuds in and the fan running. My son was in his room with his Xbox headset on. Neither one heard the commotion. The next thought that came to mind was that my neighbor had just finished telling me that he never heard us. I’m guessing at this point they were contemplating whether or not they should call 9-1-1 to report some unknown tragedy unfolding in the apartment beneath them. I gingerly got up, trying to avoid the pungent wine streaming from the broken bottle and running over the kitchen floor. The smell was overwhelming. I screamed for someone to help me as I frantically brushed the wine back with my hands to keep it from running under the fridge. I leapt over the puddles of wine, grabbed the paper towels and started throwing them down on the floor. Still no response from either of my kids. I tried not to gag. And then I started to laugh.
I laughed because there was a broken bottle on the floor and no one was standing over me demanding to know what was going on. I laughed because I had said something lame to my neighbor and no one was telling me how stupid I was. I laughed because my daughter and I could share a moment of hilarity listening to the ruckus upstairs and no one was angrily threatening to beat someone up if they didn’t stop. I laughed at the fact that I was being overcome with alcoholic fumes. I laughed because these days I find amusement in the small things in life. And I laughed because I could. Yes, life in all its splendor is glorious. The small apartment, the empty bank account, the Kraft macaroni and cheese dinners. Every single moment. It’s the most beautiful life I’ve ever had.