(The following is a work of fiction.)
A large and clearly exhausted woman wobbled at my front door. As I opened the door she lowered herself onto a sturdy plastic chair and asked if she could sit. Her feet expanded around her purple sandals like freshly baked bread. Her left hand fanned her flushed face, and her hair could have been a wig made from a wrung-out mop.
“Is Faye here?” She clutched a wad of cash tightly in her right hand.
Faye appeared at the door and thought to offer the woman some water.
While I’d been at work she’d bought our large chest of drawers that didn’t fit the new, smaller, house we were moving into. Faye posted the dresser for sale on a neighborhood list on the condition the buyer take it away ASAP.
I learned later that the woman sitting on the porch arrived with three young children in tow but needed Faye’s help to load the dresser into the bed of a battered Ford truck. Noting the precarity of the cabinet, and the youth of the children, Faye volunteered to ride in the back of the truck and steady the cargo. Faye also helped unload the cabinet at its new home.
Faye helped. Faye is kind. In those days I was cranky all the time, and doubt I would have been so generous.
As the woman drank her water we told her we’d recently moved and about the repairs we wanted to do to the house. Tomorrow, we expected a handyman to close the many open holes to the crawl space under the house to limit the intrusion of neighborhood critters.
“Houses have to breathe,” she stated firmly.
“When I bought my house I called a man to do some repairs and he wanted to seal it up. Some of it I agreed to ‘cause you want to keep the critters out, but sometimes you have to say no because houses need to breathe just like people and animals. You can’t close ‘em up too tight.”
We agreed that houses shouldn’t be sealed too tight and needed to breathe. I pretended to care about what she said but I wanted her to leave so I could change clothes and pour a cocktail.
She spoke compulsively, stories interrupted stories. Every sentence reminded her of something else she wanted to share. We listened agreeably, on the surface anyway, but when I saw her settling in, getting comfortable to follow the story no matter where it led, I interrupted and said I wanted to change my clothes, I had just arrived home from work. Faye piggybacked on my escape and said she needed to start preparing dinner.
The woman laughed at her own verbosity, and apologized. She handed Faye the damp folded bills, and thanked us for the dresser. She teetered down the steps and across the weedy lawn. I worried with every step she might pitch over.
Years later I am practicing mindfulness meditation, hoping it will help with my troubled sleep. My mind skitters when I lay down at night and I’m working to calm it by following my breath. I focus attention on the in-breath, then the out-breath. Now is not the time to think about the past or the future, but only of breathing.
As I focus on my breath, I hear the gentle rasp of the dog breathing. I hear the steady rhythm of Faye’s breath. As my breath slows, drawing me into sleep, I hear the gentle, quiet breathing of a house at rest.
Afterward: I had a choice between a long story with demons and angels and other supernatural whatnot, and this shorter story where the fantastic is more subdued. I chose the shorter because I think it’s harder to read longer stories on the glare of a screen. I think this story is fine, but the sentences don’t sing like I want.