The alarm sounds. It is not my iPod… it’s an old wind-up ringy thingy. I stretch. My arm is tangled for a moment in the blanket, but it comes free, and with the blessing of instinct, the ringing stops. I can still hear it in my head though. Maggie has been telling me I have to be careful with my diet if I want that to stop. She’s not here today. I can eat whatever I want.
Today is just another day. Maggie had me write down a checklist of all the things I need to get done. She has me do that every day. She says it will help me get control of my thoughts again. I sit up in bed and reach over to pick up the list from my nightstand. I smile. Maggie isn’t here today. The first thing on my list is to get donuts and coffee.
I get up and make my bed. I pick out my clothes, pants and a shirt. It doesn’t matter if they match. It’s cold out and I am going to be wearing a coat anyway. I pull my hair up in a sloppy pony tail and take a quick shower. I study my face in the mirror as I dress. I start singing, ♫ You’re just too good to be true. Can’t take my eyes off you. ♫ But then I don’t know the words and so I hum the tune while I rub on some facial cream and forsake any makeup.
I grab my coat and my purse and pick up my list from the nightstand again. I stop at the door and look through my purse. Silly me. How can I check off my list if I don’t have a pen? It’s still on the nightstand where I made out my list before I went to sleep. I should write that on my list from now on.
1. Put your pen in your purse with the list.
I fetch it, put it in my purse, shaking my head at myself for being so silly. Then I step out, lock my door with my key the way Maggie taught me and walk down the stairs to the street.
It’s winter, but it’s going to be a dry day. I can feel it when it’s going to rain. The J bus passes and pulls up to the stop, but I don’t need a bus, not yet. The donut shop is just up the street. I start singing and humming again, the same song. It’s stuck in my head now. ♫ I love you, baby… ♫ I can smell the donuts when I get close and I get very excited. I enter the shop and the little man behind the counter greets me.
“Ha Miss Marilyn is nice a see you! You no come a long time!” I smile.
“Hi Lou, I’ll have my favorite and a coffee for here please.” I point but he is already reaching for a maple old-fashioned.
There are no other customers in the shop. I sit down at a small table near the window. I look at my watch as I stir cream and too much sugar into my coffee. It says 7:38. I break off a little piece of my donut and put it in my mouth. It is heaven! Maggie would be mad at me. I’m not supposed to have sugar or caffeine. I let the frosting melt on my tongue as I sweep two crumbs into my hand and drop them on the napkin. I don’t like to leave crumbs. Crumbs bring cockroaches.
“Why you no come round, Miss Marilyn?” Lou comes from behind the counter to wipe a table near me where another customer has been.
“Maggie won’t let me. I’m supposed to be watching my diet.”
Lou shakes a finger at me, “Oh you bad girl! Make a trouble for your sister.”
I smile but I don’t answer him. I pull out my list and my pen and check off my trip to the donut shop. My next item is an 8:30 appointment for a manicure. I look at my watch again… 7:42.
I finish my donut and sit sipping my coffee passing the time. I stare out the window. The sugar has made the ringing in my head stronger and I don’t hear Lou or the sounds of the shop anymore. The cars passing by the window are hypnotizing, many with their lights still on in the foggy morning twilight. I sip the last of my coffee, clean my own table so Lou won’t have to, and bring my cup to the counter for him.
“Don’t be such a stranger,” Lou says. “Not so long next time.”
My timing is perfect. The bus is pulling up just as I get to the stop. I drop my fare in and sit down. My phone rings. It’s Maggie.
“Hi, Sis, just checking on you. Did you make your list?”
I tell her yes. I have it with me and I am on my way to get my nails done.
“What did you have for breakfast?”
I smirk to myself. “I fixed some scrambled eggs, toast with peanut butter and orange juice.”
Maggie seems satisfied. “Okay, good. Call me if you need anything, I’ll see you tonight. Love you.”
I hang up the phone.
I ask the driver for a transfer, get off the bus at 72nd street and walk the three blocks up to Trina’s Salon. I love getting my nails done. It feels so good and my hands feel so soft and clean and pretty afterward. I pick out a pretty pink called Hawaiian Punch and a young girl who’s a new hire paints me up. I sit quietly listening to the ringing while the polish dries. Then I pay at the register, check off the second item on my list, and walk up the street the other way to catch the L bus back to the shopping center where my supermarket is.
I have a short list of groceries I need to fill. I just need some milk and eggs and a few vegetables for this week. I live alone and there’s not much sense in having too much perishable food. I stare at my list as I’m checking off the groceries one at a time. I’ve written down jam. Oh, how I love strawberry jam! I can’t buy jam, Maggie will get mad. Last time I tried to hide it in the closet, but she found it and she checks everywhere now. I cross the jam off begrudgingly and take my groceries to the counter. I stop and check to make sure I’ve crossed everything off.
There is still one more stop I have to make before I take my groceries home. I’ll have to hurry. Milk doesn’t keep very well if you let it get too warm. I walk quickly up the sidewalk and turn back down 42nd street. The coffee helps me walk faster.
I get to the Briggs building and go inside and push for the elevator, careful not to drop my bags. People are looking at me funny carrying groceries in but no one stops me or says anything. ♫ And let me love you, baby. Let me love you… ♫ I’ll probably be humming and singing that song all day now. The elevator arrives and I get in. I haven’t been in it since I was little. Everything is all golden inside with beautiful hardwood panels and a carpeted floor. Very fancy for an elevator. I push the button for the top. I rock myself back and forth to try to make the elevator hurry but it doesn’t help. Finally it stops and I get out. I have to take the stairway the rest of the way up.
The most beautiful view takes my breath away as I step out onto the roof. I take it in. I can see the city stretching out in every direction. The fog is lifting now and the low winter sun is glistening off the tops of the buildings and cars and buses on the streets, reflecting in the windows and darting this way and that like bright golden minnows in a murky pool. I walk to the edge of the building and look down to the street so far below. The cars are tiny and the people even tinier. It all looks like the little miniature scenes I love to watch in the Hallmark stores at Christmas.
I take a deep breath and hold it in for a second. It feels fresh and good in my lungs. The air is cleaner up here. I listen to the sounds but the ringing is so strong from all the sugar now I can barely hear anything. I look down one more time and I jump. It’s what my list says to do…
4. Jump from the Briggs building.
The ground comes rushing up at me and the little miniature scene becomes real. I’m going to be a part of it! It’s all happening so fast, but it seems slower than the elevator ride. It needs to hurry. I don’t want my milk to spoil. I realize I am going to hit a parked car. That will be messy for whoever owns it. I don’t like messes. Messes bring troubled thoughts. “Oh no!” I think. “How am I going to check this off my list? Maggie is going to be so mad at me.”
© 2010 Anne Schilde