A single life
At nine years old Ty wanted to be a ballerina
At eleven years old she wanted to be a teacher.
At thirteen years a doctor.
At fifteen years a veterinarian.
At seventeen a veterinarian.
At nineteen a veterinarian.
At twenty-one, alive.
At twenty-three, dead.
At twenty-five she didn’t know what she wanted anymore.
At twenty-seven she just wanted to stay aloft.
At twenty-nine she wanted to go back to school.
She was thirty years old and disappointed. The tea was too sweet. Her mother, now sixty-five, had this unexplainable habit of not only adding sugar directly into the tea kettle before she boiled the water, but adding too much sugar directly into the tea kettle before she boiled the water.
Three days prior Ty’s fiancé, Brian, had been killed. To say it had been a blur would be a poor oversimplification. Ty was still trying to put it all together. All her memories had been created by images on TV or voices over the radio. A montage Eisenstein would be proud of was the only way she could picture the event. A jewelry store robbery. Five bullets fired and her fiancé lay dead behind the counter. Forever, she thought, the only way she’d remember would be through an image a TV screen.
There were no cruel ironies for Brian so often found in murders like these. His colleagues were another story. One of his coworkers had just quit and was about to walk out the door when the thief, nay murderer, walked in. Said coworker was bullet number one. The owner sat, depressed, in the back room preparing a grand gesture of suicide when the second bullet hit him in the shoulder. When it was all over the owner scraped his plans realizing just how much he truly enjoyed living. Brian was completely content working behind the counter when he was struck down with bullet’s three and five. The fourth shot didn’t matter.
Ty hadn’t yet gone back to school. After the wedding was the assumed time to resume her education. Now there was life-insurance money to consider. Enough, in fact, to make her feel like she didn't anymore schooling. But not enough for her to live comfortably ever-after.
The first day Ty’s mother showed up. The second day they want back to the house Ty grew up in. The third day Ty realized going back home was a mistake. The funeral wasn’t for another three days time. Brian's family was spread all over the country and they needed the time to pull together. Those who said they couldn’t make it to the wedding now made time to go to the funeral.
Whenever anyone came over Ty suddenly felt like she was stuck in the film His Girl Friday and everyone was either Cary Grant or Rosalind Russell and spoke too fast for her to keep up.
The only thing worse than people talking were moments like these. Silence with her mother. And the only thing worse than silence with her mother was silence alone.
At fourteen years old Ty wondered if she’d be one of those people in the background who died. She heard stories from her parents and aunts and uncles and other adults about friends from their youth who past away in high-school or college. Everyone seemed to know someone who died young. Ty would look around at her friends and wonder which one seemed most likely to turn into the the dead one. Drug overdose, car crash, cancer, or something equally hideous so she could tell her kids someday “and that’s why they shouldn’t...” As she aged the more everyone stayed alive the more she worried she was going to turn into a cautionary or just sad story for her friends progeny. Now at thirty she wondered if everything would have worked out better if she was the one who died young. As it stood, Mary-Sue Miller beat her to it. At seventeen Mary-Sue was rolling on ecstasy, before people really knew what it was, and nearly died due to over hydration. Luckily, in a addition to water she was drinking vodka and then tried driving home. She never made it.
Ty became the woman not even able to be a proper widow. The story would probably be worse had it happened a week or so after the marriage; she wouldn’t know whether to return the gifts or not. At least this way she didn’t have to worry about what to do.
Ty’s mother stood up. She patted Ty on the back and then walked out of the room. It was that moment, two-fifteen PM, the coffee maker exploded.
The coffee maker exploded for no particular reason. Shards of glass and bits of plastic and metal flew through the air. The explosion was so strong the debris imbedded itself in the wall and anything else in it’s path, including Ty, who immediately passed out spilling her cold, over sweetened tea on the ground.
Her life flashed before her eyes.
At ten she was punished for taking her shirt off while playing basketball with her friends. She didn’t understand why everyone made such a big deal about it.
At twelve she was punished for taking off her shirt with Tommy Kinsey in the room and the door propped shut with a chair.
At fourteen she decided she was a lesbian and swore off boys for good.
At sixteen she lost her virginity. She didn’t understand why everyone made such a big deal about it.
At eighteen she still didn’t see what the big deal was.
At twenty, after being with Bill Keret she found out why everyone made such a big deal about it.
At twenty-two she met Brian.
At twenty-four she was engaged to Louis because he asked and she didn’t know what else to say.
At twenty-six she was convinced to leave Louis at the alter and went out with Brian on what became their first date.
At twenty-eight Brian proposed and she said yes for the same reason she agreed to marry Louis.
At thirty she had forgotten what the big deal was in the first place.
When she woke up in the hospital four hours later she felt her life was less of something she had done and more like something that had been done to her.
The doctor told her she had a mild concussion and many many cuts and bruises. She nodded numbly and was sent home. A spokes person for the coffee maker manufacturers claimed that the coils overheated causing an electrical malfunction, thus the explosion. A recall was issued. Ty didn’t think that the coffee maker was left on or even plugged in, but kept that thought to herself. Medical bills were taken care of and none of the cuts or bruises would leave permanent marks.
Ty was expected to give a eulogy. She wasn’t quite sure what she should say. She was saddened by Brian's death but apparently not debilitatingly so. She felt more as if her favorite pet had died. Of course she was sad, and couldn’t just go out and buy a new one. Not right away, but in a week or so, after the funeral. She didn’t think Brian's family would be too happy to hear him likened to a cat or gold fish.
Her left hand was pretty much useless due to all the bandages and the pain that coursed right underneath. She was forced to use her weaker hand to try and ink out her final thoughts of the life she shared with her second fiancé. He was a gentle lover and cared for her deeply. He would lose himself in the small things and never had any big plans. Working in the jewelry store for the rest of his life suited him just fine. He was small time and loved it. He was a man who knew his place in the world and cherished his sense of belonging. To him everything always made sense. The more she thought about it the more she started to resent him for his calm, his peace with himself. By the end, her attempt to write turned into an exercise in futility. Paper crumpled and pen discarded she decided that she’d have an easier time of it tomorrow. She walked from her desk, a desk she had spent many hours writing various papers for countless teachers and professors, to her bed; the bed she lost her virginity on- and fell asleep.
She woke up early the next morning and crossed another day off her calendar. Only two more until the big day. Breakfast was soggy eggs and stale toast with salty margarine.
Ty showered and got dressed. Her mother left a note on her desk informing Ty that she’d be gone for the rest of the day and if Ty needed anything she could be reached on her cell phone. Ty tried to remember when her mother became so technologically advanced; when she became computer savvy and knew the difference between digital and analog mobile phones.
The sun shone as the sun is prone to do and Ty, lacking any other course of action, sat outside and basked in the light. Two books lay at her feet, neither being palatable for the moment. Ty sat, eyes open but looking nowhere in particular, on the back porch waiting for the day to end. Her left arm aching quite painful reminded her of the fact she couldn't make any coffee, and caffeine had become of late her only crutch. Maybe, she thought, her mother would bring home a new coffee maker.
Her mother did not, in fact, bring home any sort of coffee maker, fearing Ty’s response to a new one in the kitchen.
At one and a half years old Ty spoke her first word.
At three years old Ty wouldn’t shut up.
At six years old she refused to speak to her father for three months and four days.
At ten she gave her first speech in front of a crowd of her peers.
At fourteen she won her first debate.
At seventeen she had an opinion about everything and would share with anyone who would listen.
At twenty-three she started writing down all her ideas hoping one day to turn them into a book.
At twenty-eight she felt like she was running out of things to say.
At thirty she was sure of it.
With only one more day she started packing up her clothes, ready to make the trip three states away to attend the funeral of her intended. She chose only the simplest of clothes. Nothing fancy save a long black dress purchased for this very occasion. Not specifically her fiancee's death, rather funerals in general. She realized that afterwards she would never be able to wear this dress again, nor would she be able to get rid of it. This vestment of mourning would be something she’d be stuck with forever. It was almost funny to think about, but after everything was over, and all the food had been eaten, and the letter’s thrown away, years from now, this dress would be the only thing reminding her of Brian and their relationship.
As she packed she found the outfit she had worn to her father’s funeral. Eerily similar to the one she was prepared to wear now. Clothes for mourning, apparently, never go out of style.
From her room, Ty could hear the tea kettle whistling downstairs. Two minute later there was a knock on the door, and a hot cup of instant soup changed hands. Ty sat, after her mother’s departure, silently thanking that it was not her mother’s tea she held in her hands. The soup was chicken, and the secret ingredient was salt, possibly even MSG, depending on what brand of instant broth her mother now bought.
As the evening rolled around Ty grew more and more restless. She didn’t know what it was. Part anxiety to meet with Brian's family under present circumstances not withstanding, she thought the restlessness might be something else. She fell asleep trying, to no avail, to figure out what it could be.
She awoke the next morning, feeling rested, but by no means refreshed. Her arm still ached and her mind still wandered.
Packing the car was no problem. Though she only had one arm, she only had one bag. Her mother also loaded a single bag into the trunk of the car. Some snacks were left in the front, just to munch on.
Doors were locked, dryer lint checked, and lights left purposefully on to dissuade any burglars that might be prowling this Northern New England suburb. Ty sat in the passenger seat; her mother started the car and they lurched forward towards inevitable.
Ty needed a cup of coffee. The refreshing nencter of a dark roast eluded her since the curious incident of the exploding coffee maker at two-fifteen. She suddenly realized what had been bothering her the night before: caffine withdrawal.
The ever stretching highway loomed ahead. The road pushed on at a steady sixty-seven miles per hour, cruise control. Her mother cool eyed and calm lipped, made no intentions to start a dialogue. The silence was permiated only by the sound of rubber rolling over asphalt and the wind whiping by the car. No one touched the snacks.
God, did she need a cup of coffee. Tea gave her the jitters, especially tea brewed by her mother. Her first cup of coffee occured at her first date with Brian. Odd, she thought, that out of their relationship, the only desire that remained was one for caffine. The eulogy still unwritten, Ty tapped her legal notepad with her pencil and pretended to write. She wrote the sentace: “the car is driving forward yet I am going nowhere” fifty times before placing the pad face down on the floor.
With one and a half states behind, one and half to go they spotted an outlet mall that was just too good to pass up. Her mother, excited, hurried forward to check out the fabulous prices. Ty trudged behind, hoping that perhaps there was a barrista, from whom she could purchase a cup of coffee, hidden somehwere within.
At seven years old Ty purchased her first doll with her own money.
At twelve she bought her first school lunch from the eerily beautiful lunch lady Maxine.
At fifteen she bought her first pack of birth control pills.
At eighteen she bought her first computer (An Apple of some sort, though if asked now, she couldn’t tell you what kind).
At twenty-three she purchased her first car, a used car but new to her.
At twenty five she signed her first lease for an apartment.
At twenty-seven she purchased life insurance for the first time.
At thirty, in a small outlet store in New England, traveling with her mother to her fiancee's funeral, Ty purchased her very first coffee maker.
One problem at a time, she told herself.