I put my shorts on right leg, then left.
I put my shorts on left leg, then right.
I left through the back door, taking a moment to pick a blooming amaranth and tuck it in my lapel. Every year, these tulips and amaranths bloomed on the same day. I never missed it.
I left through the front door of my house, locking it with both hands so they wouldn’t shake. My palms were sweaty as I thought of the journey ahead of me.
The gate hinge emitted a sharp creak as I swung it open. I would have to oil it tonight when I got back.
The pavement was still wet from the rain last night. As a cab screeched to a halt at my signal, mud splashed against my bare legs.
I walked along the sidewalk and a passing car splashed a ring of mud onto the pavement in front of me with a splat. A few seconds earlier, and I would have been cleaning mud off my shoes.
The cab driver’s dark hair was still slicked back and wet from a morning shower. “Where to?” he asked. I hesitated only briefly, then gave him the address of the art gallery outside of town. I usually tried not to think of it, but today was not usual.
The walk to work was not long, and I stopped at Carl’s coffee stand for my morning muffin and apple. It was a daily routine, but today the muffin tasted stale. The apple was mush. I glanced up to the third story of the building across from me, where the office’s lights were still dark. I watched until my breakfast was gone, then turned the other direction.
We passed my office, traveling through the city center in the crisp morning light, and I saw my usual haunts flash by the open window. My home town was not large, and soon the smells of the city passed into the softer scents of the countryside. I heard snatches of birdsong as the car rumbled down the road. The driver hummed as he drove, but my muscles were tense. This was not my routine.
My home town was an island in the middle of cows and corn, but I liked the consistency, or so I thought. This day felt different than other years. The flower in my lapel still smelled sweet, giving me more nourishment than my muffin. I obeyed my wanderlust and let my feet steer my path. The office would have to do without me today.
As the road flashed by my window, my shoulders relaxed, my jaw loosened. This was the farthest I had been from my home in eight years–for as long as the other side of the bed had been empty. The change in scenery felt like a sunrise, and I opened the window to enjoy the breeze. But as the driver slowed and put his blinker on for the turn at the gallery, my shoulders began to tense again. This close, I found I didn’t want to see the artwork without the one who created it. I leaned over the front seat. “Just keep going for now. I’ll tell you when to stop.” He shrugged and turned off the blinker.
I walked for hours, not caring about the office, or anything else. I found myself at places in the city where I had not been in years. Not since I had been a different person. When my phone began to pester me with requests, I turned it off. I didn’t need it today. I could see a possibility I hadn’t before, just over the horizon.
At the border of the state, the driver balked at going any farther, but I persuaded him with a ready supply of currency from my account. Just because I came from a little landlocked town didn’t mean I was destitute. Something pulled me forward. The phone in my pocket chimed, but I silenced it. This day was the one that was different from the other years. This day was a change.
I oiled the gate that night. After a long day, my bed was like a pool of warm water, drawing me in. I rubbed bleary eyes and checked the lock on the front door before retiring. I hadn’t left the house that way in eight years, but the feeling of something left open wouldn’t depart my mind. Maybe tomorrow I would use the front door. The amaranth I placed in a vase of water, remembering. Back in my bedroom, I took off my shirt and shorts, left leg, then right, and crawled into my side of the bed, feeling the emptiness beside me.
After the taxi was long gone, I looked over the lake spread in front of me, my eyes stinging from the cold wind blowing in my face. Lights glittered behind me, and the cloudless sky was peppered with the first smattering of stars, like a canvas with the first lines of paint. There was a small boat at the harbor. Perhaps the owner could be persuaded to sell it to me. I wiped the spray off my shorts as I headed down to it, happier than I had been in a long time. An open door, a day off, a journey out of town. I wished I could tell the exact point I became this new person, and no longer the old one.