Sometimes, when I walk down the stairs, I forget how. Staring at the descending steps I got lost in their rise and run, my eyes sloping down their carpet patterns. I’ve twisted my ankle on stairs before—I’ve done worse, too, but twisting an ankle really hurts. So stairs always give me panic, the tension of possibly snapping my ankle and shuffling to the hospital too late, my ankle amputated and taken away, my family too embarrassed to say anything else, as if I was caught red-handed not knowing how to walk down the stairs.
Which was all very unfortunate, because the house was practically made of stairs. Each one crescendoed into a new landing, leading ever upwards, or in the case of the top floor, ever downwards. The bannisters stressed and smoothed under the pressure of gliding hands, since there was no elevator to be found. The carpet runner was an atrocious color, something I don’t have the words to describe, and I had to stare at it during my walk all the way down to the first floor, to the main entrance with a door big enough to fit a grand piano (I know because I saw it happen). Once safely downstairs, I turned towards the kitchen and there was a glass door engraved with the word Pantry. I walked through it.
I rubbed my arm and saw the beauty of a stocked kitchen pantry. I was overwhelmed before I could decide on anything, preoccupied to the point that I was no longer even hungry. “Are you almost ready?” my partner shouted from the second floor landing, stuffing some last minute clothes into a suitcase.
I glanced out the kitchen doorway and shouted back, “Almost.”
Looking back at the kitchen I opened the fridge, taking a water bottle for the road. I closed the fridge and looked back towards the kitchen doorway. I saw some fruit on the table, snagged that, and put it in a Ziploc I found, knowing that one of us would be hungry on the way back. I tossed it all into my backpack for safekeeping.
Out the kitchen doorway I saw the dining room, and I decided to take one last look. I felt the carved pillars in the archway, the fabriced walls, the paneled floors. I admired the gold centerpiece and the Tiffany chandelier, twinkling in the moonlight and gently saying from the rumbling storm outside. I yanked just one gem off of the masterpiece; no one would see the difference. Not even I could, when I looked back up at it. I slipped the diamond into my pocket and patted the mahogany table, the finish so fine it wasn’t insulted by a table cloth. I glanced out the window, watching the rain pour down and smatter the windows.
A thud at the front door. I walked towards it, sliding my hands along the walls. “Was that you?” my partner hissed from the staircase. I looked back at him in a silent response, and we simultaneously realized that there was an unwanted visitor at the door. He nodded at me twice, our safety signal, and I grabbed the luggage from the front room and headed for the back door.
He joined me outside with the last of the luggage and we were suddenly rendered deaf in the onslaught of the rainstorm. Though, we’d rather have the wrath of nature than the wrath of whoever was about to break down the front door. We put the luggage in the trunk, hopped into the car, and reversed out the driveway, swerving to avoid the other car.
Now, out on the open road, we drive and slide. The rain supports our cause to get to the safest place in the shortest amount of time, and we press onwards, windshield wipers on turbo-drive. I take out my snack fruits and offer him some, but he says his stomach’s upset, and fruit probably isn’t his best option. He turns towards our exit, a little hot on the entrance.
We tumble towards Exit 71-B, and suddenly south faces eastward and the window rolls around. I see sunset after sunrise, roll after roll after roll. My body bounces, the rhythm of the ground hypnotic. The glass glitters, dotting the dashboard and windshield, new constellations coming and going with every flip. I’m restrained by the flat rope of fabric tested by dummies and idiots, locking my body in this purgatory. My hair obscures my vision; I’m overwhelmed by the strange and string theory of the universe. Chaos theory suggests that a butterfly’s wing on the back of an elephant will change the course of history, and I remember the diamond in my pocket, the memento of that Tiffany perfection. Murphy’s law states that everything that can go wrong will and I see different colored lights tinting my view as the world comes to a stop.
Outside the car my hand twitches, the muscles unsure of their synapses. Gravity is suddenly a new sensation. I look up at the red and blue lights of airplanes overhead, and realize that I haven’t been launched thousands of feet into the air. Instead, I’m solidly on the ground and the luminosity of those red and blue lights is much closer than I first thought; it hits me that the light isn’t coming from the planes but rather from the cars surrounding me. I drop my hands to my sides and notice the blood rushing from the cuts on my hands and scabbed over cuts on my arm; I notice the car turned on its back with tires in the air like a helpless animal, notice the jewelry gushing from the suitcases the overturned backseat, notice the paintings pouring from the windows of the car, and I feel defeated. I turn the diamond in my pocket once and I put my hands where everyone can see them.