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The ride begins. The press of a button, the initiation of turning wheels, cranking levers. After seconds of stillness the movement starts with a sudden and harsh jolt, as if reluctant then powerlessly shoved face first. She repeatedly wipes her hands on her skirt, clammy with nervousness and excitement, in an act of restoring character and poise. With a whirlwind of turning emotions and thoughts consuming her, the addition of the slow but surprising rising motion overwhelms her.
Apprehensively, the woman plays with her bracelet, wrapping the clear elastic around her finger until it warms with purple coloring and bulging flesh. In shock, she pulls her finger fervently, trying to relieve her pain caused by the harmless string. By doing so, the fragile thread snaps and the beads fly to the ground. She consumes herself with the sharp sting on her wrist caused by the snapped string, rather than concerning herself with the unrepairable damage she caused. The beads lay around her, once united and now singular, once spelling “Ilovemommy” and now a mess of pieces with no bond, no association.
The woman doubts herself, questions her motives; she pulls back but there is nowhere to move to, no escape. The woman snatches a hold of the frigid handle, grasping on to safety in the madness of movement, the recklessness of emotions. With every chime, every ding, each newly lit button triggers even more excitement and rebellion; releasing up from the pit of her nervous stomach. She unleashes a rush of uneasy concern and upset with her exhale, and gulps down air of readiness, filling her body with reassuring energy as contentment swarms her limbs.
Ding. She firmly wipes her palms on her clingy skirt once more. The jolt of reaching the top flusters the woman, her body adjusting to the change in movement, her mind preparing for the real ride to begin. She reluctantly stares down at the scattered beads on the floor and stands stagnant with a sharp jab of guilt and shame overbearing her courage. As the doors open, a tear falls from the woman’s eye to the elevator carpet, immediately soaked in along with the thousands of other forgotten emotions. The woman breathes a heavy breath, stands tall, and takes a first step out of the elevator.
She walks down the short yet perpetual hallway, as if walking the plank; a surrender, although this time disposed and purposeful. She rattles around in her purse for the room key as she approaches the daunting room. Her fingers softly shook as she reached to open the door, sliding the card in the door’s slot. The red circle lit, and the woman pulled back with uncertainty, but repeated her motions with ignorance to the forewarning. She receives the green light now, though it comes slowly with hesitation, and she enters the room. The space was old and putrid, with tasteless pale green walls and cracked wooden doors; still, the room screamed with undeniable and inescapable menace. She is greeted by a distorted lemon scent, the grungy cleanliness of hasty cleaning, the made bed halfway unmade, the man sitting, staring back at her, smirking.
His shirt halfway undone, an oversized black suit jacket lying beside him, and worn out shoes already lined up at the foot of the bed. She puts her bag down and walks straight to him, goose bumps forming on her warm skin. She speaks softly, “Thanks for meeting me.”
He snickers, “My pleasure.”
She slips out of her black heels. “This time will be shorter, my family’s waiting at home.”
It was a beautiful day in the middle of July, a Saturday. The air was hot but light and a small breeze continuously blew, softening the heat and giving fluidity to the warmth. It was a day of laughing, of ease and happiness. He started in the backyard, mowing the vibrant, overgrown grass in the sun, refreshed by the clean herbal smell and the tingle of the cool wind on his glistening back. She was in the kitchen making lunch; a charming meal of cut up apples and snap peas, triangles of grilled cheese sandwich, and iced tea with lemon and swirly straws. Next to the kitchen the girls played in the living room; sprawled out on the floor with a mess of beads and tangled string, enveloped in the creation of art.
The older daughter made a necklace for herself, using all of the best thick string and colorful beads. She would show this off at school, and she excitedly pictured the envy and jealous compliments she would receive from her friends. The younger daughter, however, spent every ounce of consideration and concentration on a simple, yet esteemed bracelet. She accepted the left over beads, the last inches of string, and in the end was ecstatic with her making. She eagerly ran it to her mother, who stood against the kitchen counter with a large glass of red wine.
“Mommy, look! I did it for you, do you like it?” The girl asked with pride and satisfaction, waiting to be credited, praised. But it did not come.
“Thanks Sweetie, now go eat your sandwich, Mommy’s leaving now.”
“Do you like it Mommy? Put it on! Where are you going to Mommy?”
“Yes, Sweetie, that’s very nice, isn’t it? I’m going out, I’m going to a movie Sweetie, I’ll be back before dinner. Go eat your sandwich before it gets cold, okay?”
“Do you love it, Mommy? I hope you love it! Will you keep it forever?”
“Forever, Sweetie. I love you. I’ll be home soon.”
The mother crouched down in her tight black skirt to kiss her daughter on the top of her naïve, little head and brush down her curly, golden hair. She stood carefully, wiped her hands on her skirt, and walked to the back door before leaving. She opened the screen to tell the father she was on her way, though she closed it without attempting to yell over the overbearing uproar of his mowing. Instead, she waved at the outlook of the father, feeling disappointed with the lack of valediction, yet content with his oblivion to her whereabouts. She scribbled a quick note and placed an iced tea beside it. With that, she checked the oven and toaster, grabbed her purse, and said goodbye to her daughters on her way out the door.
Her younger daughter watched her leave, running to the window with an unbreakable smile and enthusiastic wave. She stood perched on the couch long after the car was out of sight, hoping her mom would soon turn around and come back. After her smile faded slightly, she went to the table and started her meal with a cold, yet perfect, triangle of sandwich. The father came in, sweat on his skin but smelling only of cleanliness. He took a big sip of the drink while reading the note, taking time to carefully swallow as his throat had already filled with tension and irritation.
“Girls, where did Mommy say she was going?” He asked eagerly, hoping for an answer that would defy his underlying certainty, while knowing one would not come. He ran the cold water over his hands and splashed it on his face. His eyes stung with despondency and tears fell off his face in the same rhythm as the dripping water.
She waves to his back as the heavy door closes behind him. In an act of trying to restore all that is left of the role she had made for herself, she sits on the bed for an extensive amount of time before standing. She adjusts her skirt, slips into her shoes, and presses down her frazzled hair as she looks into the large mirror. She grabs her purse and rushes to the door, placing the room key on the desk and walking out. The loud slam of the heavy door does not affect her; lost in thought she hears nothing.
The long hallway is longer than before. She reaches the elevator, continuously pressing the button, disregarding its clear response to her first touch. Her flustered thoughts shake with the tapping of her foot and her eyes are opened with the elevator doors, as she awakens with the sight of the scattered beads still lying on the floor. With a rush of regret, of guilt, she falls to the ground, collapsing to a crouch. Her cheeks tremble with a reflection of the mess her actions have created: the brokenness of a family ignorant of its frailty. Helplessness drowns her as she suffers to breathe, constricted by her crunched body, constrained by her painful emotions. She lifts her head and reaches for a cluster of the beads. She squeezes them in her fist, as if to glue them back together with passion. And as if surprised to see it did not work, she lets out a long sigh and allows the beads to fall once more from her hand.