I woke early that morning to the sound of shoes against wood and hushed angry tones.
“I can’t do this anymore! The house is a mess, there are ants…”
“It’s fine, we can clean up.”
“No, I’m sick of this. I don’t want to clean anymore, I’m going back.”
The footsteps hurried across the living room, quick paced and loud. The front door opened then shut. For a minute, I didn’t believe him; half awake, half asleep I thought maybe it was a bluff, maybe I was dreaming. My room was nearly pitch black but I could still make out the shape of my cat, the rise and fall of her stomach as she slept. Not everything had been disturbed. But then I heard the roar of an engine and felt my heart being crushed with the gravel as the car drove out of our driveway and disappeared into the night. My father had left us; my father had left me, here in the mess, with the ants and my mother. I got up and checked the time. It was four in the morning. My mother was doing something in the kitchen. Cleaning maybe. My cat stirred from its slumber, peeking one eye open to see what was going on. I rubbed its tummy before standing up and looking out my door. My mother was in the kitchen washing dirty dishes left from dinner. Her curly hair was frizzled and messy from sleep, her face, beautiful in the day, was now a knot of wrinkles and worries.
“Mom, where did Dad go?” I asked.
“He went back.” She said, not turning to look at me. “Couldn’t handle the ants or something. Don’t worry we’ll see him later.”
She turned off the water and stood there for a minute, looking out the window and yet not really looking. From the corner of her eye, I could see tears beginning to form, but before they could fall, she turned to me smiling and said, “Let’s go to sleep.”
I didn’t go to sleep after that, though I did go back to bed. I stayed up thinking about what had just happened, where my father was now, why he had left without even seeing me. Why had he left at all?
I wanted to go with him. I wanted to drive away like he did, away from the dust, the webs, the ants that seem to cover our lives. I imagined him driving on the highway in his white Mercedes Benz, not a speck of cat hair present on the seats. I imagined myself next to him, enjoying the safety and sanity of the car. We would talk about the house, how we couldn’t stand a second more of it. He would tell me about the ants and I would smile. He would smile and everything would have been all right. Everything would have been sane, simple and clean. We would have left the mess behind. But I was here and as the morning mist began to creep in and the birds began to chirp, I wondered if he thought of me as a mess too.