The absence of television is my secret indulgence. The house, silent, throbs with stored energy. Even the ambient nothing is saturated with sound and light.
The night is mine to claim or spurn. I have relinquished the service of intermediaries.
Tonight, my boy wanted pupusas for dinner. I’ve never eaten one, let alone prepared one. No matter. On my lunch break today, I popped over to the supermarket for masa harina.
We weren’t 30 seconds in the door before Bug raced off on his scooter with the neighbor kids. I cranked the music and heated the skillet. Wet cormeal, caked hands, cheese, oil. Mash and spatter, the warm scent rising.
Bug came back flushed and hungry. He downed four and told me, “Pupusas are a hit.”
Now, he is in bed running the twilight battle soundtrack, fighting off sleep with jet engines and exploding artillery. I move through the house as laundry churns and dishes dry in the rack. The dog awaits her nighttime walk. The lunches are packed, the plants sated.
Next to my bed is the red bag left from Sunday. After the 5K, my Mister and I wandered through town. In the garden behind an elementary school, we parked ourselves with our compostable takeout containers of eggs and greens. Full and sunned, we strolled down the main strip. A ruckus at the library checked our progress. Crowds, umbrellas, noise. Curious for a Sunday.
The lady at the door told us the bag was $5, and it was our ticket in. We handed her a bill and she offered up a shopping tote. We could fill it. These were the weekend book sale’s all-you-can-haul final hours. We elbowed our way through hordes of neighbors and pawed through the leavings. Children’s fiction by Ursula LaGuin, The Black Stallion, one for me by the author of The Lovely Bones. An investigation of Shakespeare’s missing folios. The Golden Compass (two copies, it turns out — I must have been eager). A treatment on writing memoirs. A stack of rough-skinned novels by women, a few fat beach reads with “murder” in the title.
The spines bit at the seams and at My Mister’s back, yet everything and everyone made it home intact.
For the past five days, the sack has been sitting unsorted on the floor of my room. Tonight, as Bug winds down and a May breeze sidles through the screens, I sit on the carpet and dump my treasures. I pull from my shelves the pieces I have no need to keep. A few dimestore mysteries, a couple of salacious works of pop journalism. Those go into my backpack for campus the book drive. The new ones, I slide into the gaps left behind, righting the spines and checking that all neighbors are compatible enough to coexist at least for the short term.
The hardback volume on the voiceless boy, I set aside. It goes onto my bedside table to keep Cervantes company. It might be what carries me off to sleep tonight.
The red bag is folded now and stashed with the other grocery totes in my kitchen. The washing machine has finished clanging and spinning. The dog has settled in her crate.
In my son’s bedroom, I hear pages flutter then thump to the floor.
The house is silent.
The night is mine.
This is nothing like alone.