I scratch behind her ears, and she knows exactly what to do: her eyes tightly shut and one leg precariously in the air. I love that dog. I walk out of the bedroom door and I find the hallway smells of milk bones and laundry detergent. An odd smell, but one to which I am accustom. All three dogs find our hallway familiar; I press on.
The house is built a bit oddly, but not for this southern suburban area--everything looks the same, no surprises and nothing fun--a split-level separated by floors whose stairs are divided by an entryway wide enough for two people to stand comfortably together, if the comfort was a goodnight kiss before the break and good-bye. Otherwise, company would have to be escorted straight up the stairs before it becomes too awkward. The stairs, fortunately, are the perfect space and width--not too deep, enough space for a large foot to be planted firmly to lift one up onto the next floor against gravity's wishes.
The living room has to be constantly cleaned, due to the amount of dust, dirt and Georgia red clay left ingrained in the carpet. The walls are painted a warm blue--or so says the paint bucket--we covered the traditional off-white a few years back when our non-traditional new wife entered our home. (She also managed to take the turkey out of my Thanksgiving and monthly wish for meatloaf, but we like the same books and can get along well enough.) The room is dark during the day. And while I prefer a more open space with light and life, we have our reasons. Our house gets little coverage from the sun; if we had not blocked off our rooms like a mausoleum, we would all be baked. And as Climate Change would prefer it, it probably is a bit more green not using as much electricity anyway. We do not recycle, but we do not like spending money if we can help it here.
The room is full of odds and ends--a couch and a chair for sitting or dropping off the towels from the laundry, an entertainment center full of discs of all tastes, video games growing dusty and a large television for enjoyment and pleasure not found in our day-to-day life. It is a window to a world we would like to visit, but probably not live. It often shows programs of models, cakes, the Upper East Side, and cartoons of a more adult humor, but not necessarily mature.
The fireplace goes untouched 10 months out of the year. One dog always rests quietly in her bed there, unless begging for food or attention. She is stubborn and strong. When the fire is lit, she investigates, her skin welcoming the warmth during the cold months when her short hair is not enough. Across the room, against my parents' bedroom door, the larger dog lays snoring louder than my father. When the door is open, he is sleeping inside their shower--an odd habit he began doing when he was just a puppy and ten times smaller than his current size. Right now, there is a fan that never goes off, plugged into the wall, and I am resting in the armchair enjoying having the house to myself, for once. Usually the amount of footwork our floors experience is daunting.
The kitchen lay just behind me. There are two columns that sit on either side of the front of the room, with which my mother fell in love. It was one of the main reasons she convinced my father this had to be the house we move into during the next stage of our lives as a whole family. Now that it is broken--and our new state of being something more akin to fractionally healed--it sometimes does not feel right being here. I am quite wrapped up in the idea of "chapters" in a life. Summer makes me realize, I have my finger on the next page, but I keep hesitating to continue with the story; I am still unsure why. The area is taken up mostly by the dark wooden table that seats us all comfortably and sits up high enough to keep the food from the begging pests we house. The hutch full of china I do not recognize takes up even more. Deeper into the kitchen is where one can find me--by the pantry, the stove and the refrigerator. If I am not cooking, I am hunting for leftovers and processed foods to destroy my system. I am hungry almost every hour or so. I am the usual reason for needing to go grocery shopping by the end of the week. The walls in the kitchen are also painted a bright green that I love. If someone were to ask me what we were covering up in there, I would not be able to tell. I rarely remember a lot from our past life. Back before the green, I barely spent any time in the kitchen--I was mostly locked up in my room pushing aside all feelings and everyone.
Our third dog is the same one of whom had the scratch-able ear. She spends most of her time following me around the house. If I am in the armchair, or in the kitchen, she will sleep on the flooring between both rooms. If I am in my room or on the couch, she will cuddle up against the nearest wall to our hallway. She is attached, and I do not mind it.
The house has been through many aesthetic changes whether it be the walls or the way the couch faces the room. I suppose that is my family's way of turning to the next chapter. For me, I am ready for something more. Even if it is just across town. I suppose this is part of growing up and wanting to experience life. I have to remind myself, though, nothing will ever compare to the comfort of home and the supply of food provided here. We may not always get along, and I may beg for a reprieve and a place to runaway, but I will never complain about having somewhere to be comfortable--even if I desire more. I am more than just lucky, I am blessed.