I was on my way home from work when I noticed the sign. It was one of those signs that looked like it had been placed there by a tired real estate agent. There was not much care taken in the planting of the sign. The sign was hidden behind a few wilting plants and in blue sloppy letters it said: OPEN HOUSE with an arrow point away from the E. There was nothing else on the sign.
I was intrigued.
I left work early that Thursday afternoon. It was not even 2pm yet and I was ready for bed. I had nothing that I needed to do. I had a lot that I needed to do but that is what made it feel like I had nothing to do. Normally I worked till six or seven every weekday evening, but that afternoon I was trying out a different approach to living.
Why not go to the open house? This is what I thought as I drove past the second OPEN HOUSE sign.
It was not that I was interested in buying a new home. I was content where I dwelled. I just wanted something different to do. The work/life monotony of suburban living can induce a kind of amnesic state that unkowingly envelopes a person in a warm, predictable and comfortable tree-lined womb. If I went home that afternoon I knew I would drink a glass of white wine, water my plants and go to sleep. I wanted something different to do. I wanted to shake off routine, if only just for a few minutes.
I followed the direction the arrows pointed towards.
I drove my 1988 green Volvo down quiet, lower-middle class suburban streets. All of the front lawns were dying. The homes looked defeated, as if all the art had been drained out of the inhabitant’s lives. It was mid-afternoon but most of the homes seemed to already have television sets on. I was still feeling ill from all the white wine I drank the night before. White wine was the best medication I had found to temporarily inoculate myself against the various unpleasant feelings that came from the life I was living.
As I drove I wanted to have a glass of white wine with me. Few pleasures were as satisfying as driving around with the windows down, music on, a glass of white wine in my right hand, a cigarette hanging from my mouth and no where in particular to go.
What was the point of writing fiction any more? It no longer matters. Maybe I am the one who has outgrown it or maybe I have become too comfortable in my life. Writing is a solitary labor. No one cares if you do not do it. It doesn’t matter to anyone. When was the last time someone said to you, “Hey when is the next story coming out?” Never. Maybe I just do not have the energy or vigor to push myself any more. Maybe it is more satisfying to spend the free time I have keeping my house clean, watering my plants, reading and strumming my ukulele in the backyard. These are the things I thought as I followed the arrows.
Sign after sign appeared. The same OPEN HOUSE sign with an arrow pointing away from the E. Just as I thought that I had come to the end of the signs, another would appear. All of the signs looked tired and bored. They were leaning towards the ground, which made it difficult to know if I was going in the right direction. Fortunately, I have always possessed a good sense of direction. When I was a teenager I led a group of 11 other teenagers out of the woods after being lost for 3 days. Its a long story.
Until this point in my life, I have always followed in the direction that I felt like was the right direction to go.
When a person feels tired and bored in their life they think that everything and everyone is tired and boring. This is what I thought about as I drove.
Just as I was beginning to doubt my sense of direction, a final sign appeared. This sign was also leaning towards the ground but it did not say OPEN HOUSE on it. It just had a solitary arrow pointing towards a long, narrow driveway. The Volvo was hesitant to go forward. It jolted back and forth, not wanting to move. I pushed down on the accelerator harder than I normally would. I yelled out. I apologized to my car for my insistence that we go all the fucking way. Once I said sorry for using such physical and verbal force, the car stopped resisting.
At first I was startled. I thought that what I was seeing was not really there. I tried to remember if I had smoked any marijuana or drank any wine that morning. I had not. I then wondered if I was suffering heat stroke. Had I drank enough water earlier that day? I thought I had. I forced myself to look at the house in front of me. I was experiencing difficulty breathing. I wished I had a glass of white wine. Everything I had ever believed was put into question.
There was an open house in front of me.
There were no walls. There was no roof. The house was wide open.
I looked around for other signs of life that could validate what I was experiencing. All I could find were weeds, wilting plants, trees, squirrels, birds, bugs and discarded beer cans. No people.
I am not sure how much time passed between my arrival and the moment I realized I was twiddling my thumbs. I stopped right away. My father reprimanded me about doing this as a child. Only the bored and lazy twiddle their thumbs son.
I got out of the Volvo and walked. I walked towards the open house like I was approaching a large dog that I was not sure about.
How? This is what I thought as I walked.
The open house looked like people were currently living there. All the signs of a home lived in were there: couches, chairs, beds, televisions, tables, plants, bookshelves and various other pieces of furniture. There were potted flowers around the open house and there was also a swing hanging from a tree. Everything looked incredibly normal, except for the absence of walls and a roof.
How? I said it out loud this time.
I’ve read a lot about people losing their mind. Is it now my turn? I said this out loud also.
I stood where I felt like the front door should be located and I yelled out.
I yelled out one last time and waited for a reply. Nothing.
What the hell. I said this to myself. I decided to walk in.
Hello? I did not yell out. I was trying to be polite.
Everything in the home looked as if it was well cared for. It was not what you would expect from a house without walls and a roof. The carpets looked like they had been recently vacuumed. There was no dust accumulation on the furniture, television or tables. The pillows on the couch and chairs looked like they had been artfully placed. No cobwebs. On the coffee table in front of the television there were magazines, a few art books and several television remote controllers. On the side table beside the couch there was a small clock that I noticed was no longer working and a few books stacked neatly beneath a reading light.
I walked through the living room and into the kitchen. There was a clean, modern sink with only a coffee cup in it. On the counter next to the sink were sponges, dish soap and a sign that said, A Clean Sink Is The Heart Of A Loved Home. The granite counter tops reflected blue sky, tree branches and sun.
The sun and the moon and the trees all spend their days hanging out. Why don’t we? This is what I thought as I looked at the kitchen table with four chairs around it. There was a stainless steal refrigerator. I noticed some desiccated leaves on the kitchen floor, which had fallen from the tree branches that hung above. Beyond the kitchen sink and counter, a backyard with a dying lawn, potted plants and flowers, sun chairs and a pool. Looked like a nice place to rest.
I used the toilet and felt uncomfortable being exposed as I peed. The bathroom was surprisingly clean. It was the kind of clean that I strived for in my own bathroom. I got some pee on the rim of the toilet and cleaned it off with toilet paper. Unlike most people- I have manners. I flushed the white porcelian toilet. The bathtub had a DWELL magazine in it. It looked as if someone had left it there to read the next time they took a bath.
I walked through what seemed to be a hallway. There were several bedrooms all around. All of the beds looked professionally made and the surrounding areas were tidy. At the end of the hallway was a larger king sized bed. The bed had a nice comforter and a plethora of patterned pillows. The space looked like it was the resting place of whoever owned the open house. Beyond the bed were weeds, plants and a few dehydrated trees, which dropped leaves onto the bed. Bugs flew all around. There was an old wood fence in the distance. I could feel the heat from the sun on the top of my head.
I sat down in a comfortable chair besides the bed. I looked around. I could see a toilet, shower, sink. Must be the master bathroom. This is what I thought. Beyond the bathroom area I could see all of the contents of the entire home spread out in front of me. It was as if I was sitting in the far corner of a carefully curated field of furniture.
I took off my shoes and got into the bed. Some of the pillows fell on to the floor as I made myself comfortable in the bed. The sheets and the comforter smelled clean. I strived for this smell in my own bed but was much too lazy to be able to achieve it on a regular basis. I pulled the blankets up over my body and looked towards the sky. There were no clouds, just branches and leaves. I could hear a few bird sounds. There was a warm afternoon breeze. I took a deep breath, noticing that I was not having trouble breathing anymore. It would be nice to have a glass of white wine right now. This is the last thought I remember having.
There was a loud scream followed by another loud scream. It sounded like a woman’s scream. There was another scream, which sounded like it was coming from a young girl. I was startled out of my deep sleep. It took me some time to figure out what was going on. When I heard, What are you doing here?, shouted forcefully in my direction- I sat up quickly. I threw the blankets off of me. There was an older lady and a young girl standing at the entrance of the room. There were walls. There was a roof over my head. I stared at the lady who looked like she was ready to attack. Then I realized that I was sleeping in someone else’s room.
Get out of here! What do you think you are doing in my bed! I am calling the police! She kept shouting things like this at me. I was still confused as I put my shoes on while telling her how sorry I was, how confused I was, how I did not understand how any of this was happening. I did not make things any better for myself when I asked her how the roof and ceiling got here all of a sudden. She called me crazy and the young girl started crying. I tried to reassure her that I was not a threat and that I was leaving right away. I am leaving now, I am leaving, Please do not be afraid. This is what I kept repeating as I walked past the lady and the young child.
I walked down the hallway and out the front door. Where did the front door come from? This is what I thought as I walked out. I could feel my heart beating in my stomach as I walked quickly to my car. I wanted to get away before the police arrived. As I was about to get into my green Volvo I heard the lady’s voice, shouting in my direction. I turned around and looked at her. She was standing in front of the house, which now had a front door, walls and a roof. The house was painted white.
Sir! Sir!! Excuse me, but were you here for the open house?