I open the door to my condo and immediately dump my bag and purse onto the floor, kicking off my shoes and reaching up to undo my hair from the tight bun I keep it in at work. As I make my way into the kitchen to pour my usual glass of wine, the jacket and tie of my uniform find themselves on the floor. I pour my wine, and undo the clasp and zipper of my skirt, leaving it in a puddle on the tile floor, then head back into the living room, collapsing on the couch.
I set the wineglass down on the coffee table and peel off the thigh highs that I wear, and undo the top three buttons on my shirt. I pick up the glass again and reach a hand over to hit the play button on the stereo remote, and immediately something soft and classical starts playing quietly.
Starting to relax into the couch, I suddenly sit up, put my glass down again, and reach a hand up the back of my shirt, unclasping my bra, and going through a short struggle to get it off without taking my shirt off completely. That finally done, I take another sip of wine and finally allow myself to relax completely.
It's two hours before I get up again, and only because my stomach had started growling painfully an hour before. As I walk to the kitchen, I glance at the clock on the wall, assured as I read the hands set at nine o'clock, that my daily ritual has yet to change.
A microwaved container of Chinese take-out leftovers later, I go change into a pair of worn sweat pants and a paint-stained t-shirt. I see my half-finished painting as I open the door to my art room, and I smile. The picture is of Colonel MacKenzie. I would rather die than admit it out loud, but I really admire her. Her past may or may not have been as bad as mine, I don't know, but she rose above it. I carry mine with me every day, whether I like it or not.
I sit down in front of the picture and open my paints, mixing the colors appropriately and taking out my brushes. With careful strokes I continue the painting, watching as the vague form takes on the features of the woman I wish I could be.
I spend an hour on the painting before putting my paints away and cleaning my brushes, then placing them back in their container. It's now eleven thirty, and I turn on the TV to watch half of David Letterman before switching channels to a late movie.
It's finally two, and the ritual must end, to be replaced, instead, with the charade of a peaceful sleep. I turn the TV off and walk into my bedroom, looking at the bed for the first time. Resignation is replaced with horror as the events of this morning, yesterday morning, I idly think, register in my distracted mind.
As if watching some kind of morbidly fascinating accident, although it is anything but fascinating, my mind flashes back. My schedule had been thrown off by an unexpected (extremely unexpected) phone call from my sister, and I was rushing to make up for it. In all my years in the military, I have never once been late. As I had rushed into my room to pick up my Academy ring, I tripped over a stray shoe, sending my breakfast flying, landing, as if by magnetic pull, on my black satin sheets.
I stare in dismay at the now dried mess, and I can hear the echo of myself, swearing viciously, then deciding that I could clean it up this evening. What I obviously hadn't thought of was it drying into a hardened mess. And my other satin sheets were in the washer still, from a similar incident with my nightly wine.
Mechanically, I strip the bed and shove the sheets into the hamper. I walk to the linen closet with concrete feet and open the door. Reaching up to the top shelf, I pull down a set of cotton sheets. I look longingly at the flannel sheets on the shelf below, but know that no matter what I think of cotton, if I sleep in flannel sheets I'll be sick in the morning from being overheated.
Carefully making the bed, I block out painful memories linked to cotton sheets like these and focus instead on making the perfect military bed. The bed finally made, I change out of my painting clothes and into the short silk nightgown that was hanging over the edge of my vanity chair.
I pull back the top sheet and climb into bed, turning out the light. As soon as I pull the sheet back over me, the memories begin, and I quickly push the sheet back with my legs. Memories averted, for now, anyway, I turn on my side and quickly fall asleep.