The house is sleeping, however I am awake.
I extract myself from the blankets, which have tangled during the night with the unconscious acrobatics of every living thing that inhabits our home. As if I were removing a shawl, I lift The Champ's legs from my arm and unfurl the cat from around my shoulders. I only vaguely remember when they became part of my sleepwear during the night.
I slide out of bed with the stiffness of a cardboard cutout but feel more like myself as I move around the room trying to dress without opening drawers or making noise. I avoid the third floorboard from the doorway as I walk through it, holding my shoes in my hands as I tiptoe down the stairs. I forget the second step down creaks, however, and freeze the moment the silence is broken by its protest of my stepping there.
Silence — or what there is of it amid the whirring of fans and other mechanical sleep soothers — mends itself and I continue to creep down the staircase to the porch.
It is a perfect morning for a walk. The sun is still low and covered in clouds. It is humid but there is a breeze a few gusts beyond gentle that, if you close your eyes, could trick a person into believing they were by the seashore.
The traffic is light and no one else is in sight as I close the door and set off toward the street. Though my destination is to return to where I started, how long it will take me to get back home will determine the route. A half hour? An hour? Shall I be efficient, direct … or shall I meander?
I walk a few blocks toward the center of town with neither hesitation nor contemplation. The cardboard cutout, now in need of caffeine, has returned to be my navigator. There are people waiting for the Surly Drip to open, and I momentarily think about stopping for a to-go cup.
Shrugging my shoulders and smiling to myself, I continue walking as I remember all the modern necessities in life - including cash and cell phone - are at home with my snoring family.
I think of the last time I did this — just go for a walk. It has been quite a while. The boy was a baby, still small enough to schlep around in a sling. He was a silent, sleeping, partner. Walks since then have seemed more like Stops … Many, many, stops: Tantrums, stop; Farmers' Market, stop; stick on the sidewalk, stop.
Mostly, I've not bothered to start.
I shake off the stiffness and change direction, taking a left when I usually take a right. As I walk I see things I've never noticed before: two houses in the same shade of pink; chickens running around a farmyard, chasing each other in a playful way I've never imagined chickens could display; a dog's footprints are sealed in the cement sidewalk and a name, in a child's handwriting, appears a few blocks farther. Hammocks, almost identical in appearance, mirror each other in two postage stamp-sized front yards. I wonder whether the neighbors are head to head or feet to feet when they are reclining there.
"Such odd things to notice," I think to myself as I keep walking. I am Alice. This morning is Wonderland.
Lights are starting to blaze in houses, now. The clang of pots and pans ring out from the open kitchen windows. Breakfast will soon be ready.
In another mile I'll be back to where I began.
It is six a.m. when I return.
The house is awake now and struggling to find acceptance in my absence. The smells of coffee and bacon - maybe even blueberry waffles - greet me, along with the tear-stained face of my son, as I open the door and kick off my shoes.
"See, I told you she'd be home soon. She just went for a walk."