The Tower Journal

Marty Carlock

Order in the World

The house looks wrong. ‘Where are we?’ I say. ‘We’re at Jack and Margaret’s,’ he says. ‘We’re going to stop in for a while.’ He seems to think that explains everything. It makes me mad.
     Before he finishes parking the car these people come out of the house, smiling and talking. He gets out and kisses the woman. I don’t like that. He and the man slap each other on the back. He comes around an opens my door. I don’t want to get out but he takes my arm and urges me out. Both these strange people hug me like they know me. They don’t have hats or coats on and I don’t understand why they aren’t cold. I have my long down coat on over my sweater and my short down coat and I’m still cold. I’m always cold.
     He takes my arm and she takes my other arm and they walk me into the house. It’s one of those houses where you go in and there are stairs up and down right away. ‘We’re going upstairs, Sandy,’ she says. How is it she knows my name? I watch my shoes going up the stairs. They look strange. They have straps that stick to each other instead of laces. I forget what you call them.
     We’re in a kitchen and she says, ‘Let me take your coats.’ I don’t want to take off my coat but he says we should. I take off my mittens, too, but I won’t take off my wool hat. She says, ‘Can I make you coffee? Tea? The pot’s hot.’ He says yes, so I say yes. ‘Which?’ she says. ‘Coffee or tea?’ She looks at me like she expects an answer. He says, ‘Coffee.’ They pull out a chair for me to sit down. It isn’t square to the table and I try to get it square and neat before I sit down. She won’t let me. She says, ‘I don’t think you can sit unless you pull it out more.’ It makes me mad when people do that.
     This strange man says, ‘Sandy, do you remember when I used to call your house and pretend I was taking a survey, and I’d say, I’d like to speak to the head of the household, and you’d say, You got her!’ It must be a joke because they all laugh, so I laugh too. I don’t remember any such thing. The strange woman puts a cup of coffee in front of me and says to him, ‘She likes milk and sugar, right?’ I don’t know how she guessed that. He nods. She says, ‘Is this okay, Sandy?’ It isn’t full, and I try to show her. I put two fingers across the top but she doesn’t seem to understand. ‘More milk?’ She gets a bottle and pours more. She says, ‘Be careful, it’s pretty full.’
     He sits down. There are couches and a television in this kitchen, I don’t know why. They all start talking and I drink my coffee. When they laugh, I laugh. Sometimes they say nonsensical things to me. I try to make them think they are talking sense. The chairs at the table are sitting crooked. They should be straight. I get up and straighten them all out. There should be some order.
     There seems to be no end to their chatter. I get up and walk around. On the counter I find a pad of paper with lines on it and words written on the lines. But not all the lines. That’s wrong. There should be words on all the lines or not any of the lines. I take the pad to the table and fold it right under the line with the last word. I crease it hard with my fingernail and slowly tear it off. It looks better, but now there is another sheet of paper underneath with blank lines. I’m thinking about what to do about that when the woman says, ‘Oops, be careful with that, Sandy. That’s my grocery list.’ He gets up and says, ‘Here, hon, don’t play with that,’ and takes it away from me. I’m very annoyed with him.
     It’s getting dark outside, and he doesn’t notice. I want to say, Tony, but I’m not sure that’s his name. I just know he’s the one that seems to be in charge and always telling me what to do. I point at the window and try to tell him. ‘It’s all right, Sandy,’ he says. ‘We’ll go in a little bit.’ Somebody pulls the drapes across the window. They catch on something, maybe this brown coat that’s slung on the back of the couch. I get up and fix the curtain so it’s straight. Things should be neat.
     I see some eyeglasses on the counter. I should be wearing them. I start to put them on. The strange woman smiles and says, ‘No, those are my glasses, Sandy,’ and takes them away from me. But she doesn’t put them on herself. Why do people do things like that? I don’t think I like these people.
     They keep talking. He’s talking a lot. I find my long coat on a chair and put it on. I find the snap under my chin and snap it, then the one below it and the one at the waist and one more. I can’t seem to find the one below that. I smooth both sides of the coat down with both hands, but it’s not there. There is room for another snap, and there should be one. There should be order.
     He looks at me and says, ‘Sit down, Sandra. We’re not going yet.’ It makes me mad when he calls me Sandra. He knows I don’t like it. ‘Ten minutes,’ he says. ‘We’ll go in ten minutes. Just sit down.’ I don’t sit down. I want to leave. I put on my mittens. They keep talking.
     There’s a brown leather coat on the back of the couch. I should be wearing it. For some reason he’s sitting at the table now. I pick up the brown coat and start to put it on. He turns around and says, ‘No, Sandy, that’s my coat. You can’t have it.’ He takes it away from me and puts it on.
     We finally go out to the car. I reach for the door handle but he says, ‘You get in the other side, Sandy.’ He’s so bossy. The strange man hugs me and helps me get in. I avoid the strange woman, but he kisses her. I don’t like that. I think she says something about, If we can help you in any way. He nods and shrugs. It doesn’t make any sense. I’ve started ignoring things like that. That don’t make sense.
He gets in and starts the car. The strange people wave goodbye. ‘Where are we going?’ I say. He’s sitting in his seat in the car, driving. I’m sitting in my seat in the car, going wherever he decides we’re going. At last things are the way they should be. The way I expect them to be. There should be order in this world.

Copyright © 2014 Marty Carlock
Free-lance journalist Marty Carlock, author of A Guide to Public Art in Greater Boston, has published more than 1,600 articles in thirty-plus publications. At present she writes for Sculpture and Landscape Architecture magazines and for her own amusement.

The Tower Journal
Spring/Summer 2014