Dark Doorways #9
It was not the buzz of a new text that woke me that New Year’s morning, but the ubiquitous sunlight, that warmth that permeated every corner of Swanson’s house. Apparently, drinking for three straight hours entitled me to sleep on their plush couch. In fact, it was the new text that ruined the moment, the sweetness as I bestirred myself.
Where are you? I’m at the cupcake shop drinking coffee alone.
Michael and I had never made plans to meet for coffee. I had never invited him to follow me to Swanson’s house. I had never asked him to run off into the night, deserting me.
And so that is how I came to the decision to ignore the text and allow the New Year’s sunshine to wrap itself around me. I wondered if Mom knew about the light inside this place, if perhaps that is why she was so convinced that it was a perfect house.
“Será!” Gabriella’s voice reminded me that I was in someone else’s home, intruding on their routine. But her hug, oh that consoling feeling of a child’s embrace, could have saved me from anything. Two angel’s arms reaching down from their mysterious celestial home to remind the mortals that there is hope. How did parents ever part from their children? How did Swanson bear this custody arrangement?
“Happy New Year, Gabriella!”
“You can just call me Gabi. That’s what everyone in my family calls me because my grandma’s name is Gabriella.”
“Okay then, Happy New Year, Gabi.”
Swanson’s feet padded down his gorgeous staircase, and I hadn’t seen a mirror in half a day. Straightening my hair along with my spine, I wondered who put the blue throw over me during the night.
“Good morning Sarah!”
“Oh good morning, Dr. Swan– Vadim. I’m so sorry that I slept on your couch. I normally don’t drink much. I’m really sorry.”
“Don’t worry about it. I offered to pay cab fare, but you fell asleep before I could call one.” His thick brown curls fell in his face, disheveled and unbound by the rules of social norms. I wondered if his ex had ever tried to control his hair.
“Well, you are too kind. I should never have been in such a condition.”
“It’s New Year’s! Don’t worry about it! Will you drink tea or coffee?”
“You’re too generous. But actually coffee sounds really great.”
Swanson gave me a neutral nod as he walked into the kitchen, the gesture he gave in every conversation. I imagined he and his ex in their engagement.
Vadim, I think we should get married.
The head bob was comforting though. There was nothing hurtful in it, no unkind words that could never be taken back. I slithered off to their bathroom, still ashamed of my overindulgence. Maybe I should have nodded more, those times when Mom and I fought over my studies, my boyfriends, my attitude. Regret had replaced the warmth of morning light as I emerged from the bathroom.
“Será, will you play treasure with me?”
“How do you play?”
“Well, one person makes a treasure map, and you have to show how to get to the treasure, and the other person has to go find the treasure.” Gabi was already pulling on my hand, leading me to the kitchen’s breakfast nook, where paper and crayons awaited us.
I was in Swanson’s house, where he was making me coffee, where his daughter was drawing me a treasure map. This, this oddity, was not how I thought I would start the new year.
“Cream and sugar?”
“Yes, both please.”
I allowed Swanson to serve me coffee while my skin eagerly absorbed the sunshine. It would be months before I would be able to sit on the beach again, and so the moment of Vitamin D injection had to last.
“Será,” Gabi began, pulling my attention back to the table with her tug. “See? This is the treasure map, and you have to find the treasure.”
“Oh, wow. I might have to walk kind of far. Is this campus? Where your dad works?”
Swanson remained stoic, completely unmoved by Gabi’s pulsating light. Perhaps when you live your daily life, your grocery shopping and your doctor’s visits, in Elysium, it ceases to be amazing after a while.
“Is this the fountain?” Deciphering her map proved harder than I thought.
“And is this your neighborhood here?”
Gabi’s message hit me, a dose of morphine sweeping over me, tingling every muscle. The map led me all through Evanston, then right back to this house. To Mom’s dream house. To Swanson’s house, this enigma shrouded in light.