Chariot of Fire

Hurtling along the Trans Canada Highway into the dusk, perched upright in my orange Toyota, I’m a charioteer in my Chariot of Fire, blissfully ignorant of what may be around the bend.

I am potent.

Extra octane surges through my pulsating veins. Today, I challenge the Universe: hand to hand combat, best out of three.

Such is the result of a week of unbridled freedom on an otherwise encumbered female’s psyche.

By rights I am no longer encumbered. Friend husband was shucked off some years ago in a moment of lucidity; friend daughter waved off to adventures in Europe with a few extra dollars “in case.” But I am one of those mortals who carries the heartaches and the thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir to on her shoulders.

I take in strays.

Not this week, though. This week I move with the freedom of the gods. Seven days to do exactly as I like. Things not necessarily useful, of no redeeming social value, of no value whatsoever except to my soul—that frail bird whose glorious multi-coloured plumage is usually buried in the littered nest of expediency.

How I had anticipated these rare moments: away from work, away from family. I could sleep uninterrupted for hours, days, the entire week. Only the protests of my calcifying bones would finally lift me from the bed I promised my hassled self as I flew around frantically clearing up the last few chores.

I could take the dictionary into the bathroom and sit there until my bottom became permanently etched with the toilet bowl ring, slowly reading from ‘aardark’ to ‘zygote.’ No phones to ring, no one to disturb me for “just one minute.”

I could buy a violin and learn to play a concerto, or write a novel with three hundred and sixty-eight undisciplined characters, none of whom appear more than once.

I would be alone, unencumbered, no schedules, no housework and no guilty “shoulds.” I could lie on the floor and contemplate the ceiling, stretch out on the damp grass and converse with the clouds until my bones, my muscles, or my boredom moved me. No alarm clocks to shatter my pristine time; all regulated by my own internal clock. Fantastic.

“Who will help me plant the seeds?”

“Not I said the pig.”

Yahoo!

The Fact is I did none of the above. One seldom does, but freedom is the “could have” and I had a wonderful time. (Sent no e-mails saying, “Wish you were here.”)

Why don’t we do this more often? I mused as I stared mesmerized at store windows, drifted through art galleries, read urgently into the night.

When inclined—dinner with someone else cooking and washing up and me just sipping my chilled German wine, and thinking about the cosmos or fresh blueberry pie. Uninterrupted images unrelated to daily errands would drift through my brain: growing, expanding, and then floating off into the black velvet sky. Or if I chose something more dramatic, images would be retrieved and painted in luminous green stripes: my choice and my stripes.

I’d be hand in hand with me, giggling together, exchanging sly winks, such a wonderful, witty, light-footed woman. We could build things together: bridges, cathedrals, golden cities. We could write symphonies in E minor. We could start the revolution.

And flying down the highway heading home, I can still feel the power. Today I embrace you, glorious Vancouver. No housework here.

The wash of golden paint on the horizon fades; evening descends. Human lights prickle the dusky sky.

Maybe I’ll fix up the house. Transform the musty old place into what I want it to be. Peter’s tastes had been conservative. Compromises in lifestyle had painted us beige. But now, what can I do? Refinish the house in wood siding? Put on a verandah? I’ll paint it all by myself.

Around the corner, unto my street then horrors, there, in my spot, is Eric’s car. The kid is back.

The little bugger, I mutter as I heave my bulging suitcase out of the trunk, suck in my breath, pull up my shorts, and head for the ring.

As I hit the bottom step the front door explodes open. The kid, lanky, disheveled, lurches out, barring my way.

“Where’s dad?” he cries accusingly, inferring I have his father in a burlap sack in my car trunk.

“David’s on holiday,” I grunt struggling to push past the fleshy encumbrance into my house.

“You went together.”

“We spent two weeks together, the last week we went our separate ways.”

The kid smirks knowingly.

“Sometimes people like time alone,” I suggest.

This Eric does not believe. He always has at least seven others, all the same make and model as him, milling around intimately in his life. They move like a giant centipede to the movies, the pizza place, the basement, to drink, to eat, to smoke, and to do “whatever”. They may even do “whatever” collectively. They probably share the photos on-line.

The battle continues on the front stoop. I, bulky suitcase in hand, coat dragging over my arm, purse dangling from my weary shoulder, shove against Eric. He stares towards the empty car, expecting his father to materialize, which I wish he would. I’d give him back his son, wrapped even.

Never trust white wine and soft music.

The romance à deux with David became an uncomfortable ménage à trois until my daughter was shipped off to Europe. We no sooner had started to savour our moments alone when David’s son Eric landed on us. Whatever the reason—bad genes, bad parenting, or bad luck, Eric is a nebbish: unmotivated, uncaring, unconcerned, and out of it.

David ruefully agrees and we plot into the night how to relocate “the kid” to an adequate apartment some distance away with Sunday visiting privileges.

Eric is not keen. We haven’t offered a housekeeper in the new location and he is no cook. Being a soft touch I have so far not insisted. By fall, though, the gentleman caller has promised to set up camp somewhere other than our living room couch.

“Sit,” Eric snaps, wrenching my suitcase from my sweaty hand like an anxious porter.

I had anticipated soaking my tired muscles in a piping hot bath until they were lobster red, soothing music in the background, a cool glass of Riesling at hand. Instead I am ordered to seat myself in my own house by a disconnected young fellow who has, I suddenly note with horror, an anxious female appendage leering from behind his bony shoulder.

“Do you need a drink?” Eric challenges, stressing the word “need.”

“Will this take long?” They are too exuberant to be bearers of bad news.

“No, no,” they topple over one another to assure me.

We sit. They on the corners of their seats slightly forward glancing conspiratorially at one another.
A wave of fatigue sweeps over me, my shoulders seize from the long drive, my eyes itch.

“Well?”

“We’re getting married,” Eric chokes out triumphantly.

“Oh” I venture.

“As soon as possible,” the girl asserts defiantly.

I know the girl’s name. It’s Brenda. I’m just too nasty to use it.

“Oh,” I offer in a slightly higher register, knowing how furious David will be.

“This is a surprise.”

“Why should it be?” the girl snaps, “People in love marry.”

And diamonds are forever.

“What about Eric’s school year?”

“We’ll manage.”

On David’s money, I expect.

“Mother has already booked the hall,” the girl cries triumphantly.

What can I say? My third “oh” floats across the room, an orphaned bubble.

“When is it to be?”

“June 30.”
“We thought you’d be pleased,” the girl grumbles, “being a woman.”

Although a woman, I am not in the bridal business.

“Of course, but marriage is a serious business.”

So speaks the Victorian matron.

“We know. We see the breakups. We’ve learned from that.”

I am part of the breakups, as is David. What we have learned from that I am uncertain.

“We already have a list of over 100 guests,” the girl concludes.

Eric mooning in the background notes my skepticism and charges to his lady’s defense.

“It’s a good sized hall on Broadway.”

And how can you argue with a good-sized hall?

“We were wondering,” the bride-to-be offers a thin want-something smile, “just to give a hand if
Eric could, well, stay on.”

“I told Dad I’d leave,” the cowboy admits, “but it would cost a lot.”

“Let me think on it,” I recoil refusing to be bulldozed the first day back.

Slyly I suggest that I treat them to a celebration supper at a local restaurant, just the two of them. It will be more romantic.

“You sure?”

“Yes, I’m sure.”

“Gee, okay.”

Push. Push. At the door, the bride turns back.

“Eric and I,” she says blushing coyly, “wondered if you could persuade David to tie the knot.”

My eyes narrow.

“Mommy thinks it would be awfully nice for the big day if you and David were legit.”

I couldn’t wait to meet Mommy.

“She says it might be just the prod David needs.”

So much for wine and roses. Should I confess that the only way David will get me down the aisle is in a coffin? No, better skip the witticisms with this crowd.

“Ta,” the fiancée winks, abandoning me to gasp like a beached whale on my front stoop. Eric’s “ciao” echoes in the distance.

The empty house slowly ingests my defeated protoplasm, obliterating the orange flash of my Chariot of Fire.

In a last gasp I struggle to regain the life force, to recall the power. To fly again.

~ Melodie Corrigall

2012

Originally published in: Granny Smith Magazine, Issue 2, June 2012
and Writing in a Woman’s Voice

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