Creature of Habit

With the key I opened the door and let myself in, then relocked the door and carefully returned the key to my jacket pocket and zipped it shut. Can’t be too careful.

Ah, home.

Funny how quiet and still a house can be while it waits. Or so we assume. I looked around at everything—the furniture, the rugs, the modest artwork on the walls—and it seemed to be holding its breath. Not anxiously, but just in that state of suspension reality has when we’re not watching.

I hung up my jacket—there was an exact place for it in the closet—and went in to the kitchen to make a cup of tea. Of course I chose “my” cup. A little music? Yes, good idea. I pulled up my favorite radio station on the system. Not too loud.

When the tea was ready I brought the cup into the study where I sat at the desk and surveyed the little kingdom. A number of things demanding attention surveyed back, but it had been a long day and I was in no mood for the petty demands of life.

I could hear through the door the soft lilt of a familiar tune, but I couldn’t place it. Odd sometimes how music can do that—touch the keys of an exact aural memory but withhold the context. Give you the spirit but not the letter. And what would you choose, if you were forced: spirit or letter? Well, spirit, no doubt—but spirit can bring a weight to the heart, and there’s something to be said for the rote of the letter, unweighted by emotion.

In the bathroom I took care of my business and cleaned up an observer (but there was none!) might have said obsessively but I would say only well.Thoroughly. Leaving not even stray drops of water around the lavatory. I did all this, of course, without looking in the mirror; honestly, if I didn’t have to shave I wouldn’t have one—but then I caught myself and I stared for a moment. No, I concluded, I have no idea who you are.

Something to eat? The refrigerator was orderly—hardly a horn of plenty and everything in containers. A little Tupperware treasure hunt. Ah, lasagna. I took a little, heated it in the microwave then wiped away every speck. I sliced some bread from a loaf and poured a small glass of wine. I wasn’t really hungry, but as they say, I needed to eat. Like taking communion—what if you weren’t hungry or thirsty? Hardly the point, they would say, you need to eat and drink this. The spirit needs the ceremonial as the body needs food and water.

I cleaned everything immediately, dried it all, and put it away. Like us, really—you wait, you are pressed into service, you wait again.

After that, I wandered around the house a bit, from room to room. I paused for a while looking at the bed—that cocoon of slumber and dreams and love—but it didn’t call to me, and the items on the dresser looked brittle and separate and dull, so I settled at last in the den and flipped through TV channels, that old familiar ratwheel of futility.

Now what? You could define life that way—a series of now-whats—as time steals more and more of the whats. An observer might have called these thoughts morbid, but that’s what observers do—find the morbid in the mundane.

Because mundane more than anything it all surely was, and as always I found myself almost anticipating the crunch of gravel out on the drive. Whatever else you say about it, it’s a what.

And it was time for it.

Ah! No mistaking that sound. I crept over to the window and peeked out around the drapes. The car was coming around the curve, toward me. As always.

I got my jacket, slipped out the hidden back door. Woods all around, like the chaos from which order comes, and don’t think I don’t have my places.

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I parked, let myself in, and went in to the kitchen to make tea.

Ah, home.