Behind Door Number 1
Last night Otto was late coming home from work.
As the minutes on the clock began to tick past 5:00 pm, the Doodle, Mr. Mooster and I hovered in the living room, occasionally peering out the large window that overlooks our driveway, waiting for the headlights of her car to drive up the darkened street.
While we waited for Otto to make her appearance, we played. Mostly the Doodle tried to stand up using Mr. Mooster as a balance, and Mr. Mooster tried to run away from the fur clenching grip of the baby.
Otto would be home any time now. We were sure of it. It was her night to cook dinner.
The big kids then began to filter through the living room, one by one, asking where Otto was, quickly followed by asking what was for dinner. My answer to both questions was a simple, “I don’t know.”
Otto hadn’t called and the minutes were passing by slowly. She’s not usually late, and if she is, she calls. I figured that she was stuck in traffic, and even though you can’t talk on the phone while driving, I dialed her phone number hoping she would stealthily pick up and whisper her location.
Otto’s phone rang and rang and went to voicemail. I figured she couldn’t easily access the phone in her bag, so I called again. The phone rang and rang and went to voicemail for the second time. I started to get a little concerned.
The minutes slowly ticked by and tummies began to rumble. The game of trying to stand up on the dog got old for the Doodle, so she turned her attention to trying to crawl to the gas fireplace and pull open the metal grate which hides wires and the on switch. I followed suit playing the game of redirect and distract.
I glanced up at the clock again. It was now twenty minutes to six. Otto was very late and had gone dark. I tried to call her again. My irritation at her tardiness had turned into genuine worry. To keep my worry at bay and conjuring up the worst possible reason for her not being in our home at this exact moment, I set myself out to tackle dinner.
Otto had constructed a weekly menu that consisted of mostly new dishes. I read the name of the dinner aloud from the menu posted on the front of the fridge and tried to conjure up how to make it. When that didn’t work, I opened up Otto’s computer to scour her bookmarks. Only she uses a different browser than I do and in my agitated state I couldn’t even locate where the bookmarks were kept. Thankfully, I could use the power of google and the highlights of links recently visited to figure out what I was supposed to feed my family.
As I began to chop the ginger, garlic and onions for the curried apple and lentil dal, I glanced at clock again. Every few chops I would look back up to see how much time had passed as I strained to hear the sound of Otto’s key in the lock over the CBC playing in the background.
When the clock registered 6:00 pm and began to tick past that, I couldn’t help my self from mapping out contingencies. Who would I call to watch after the kids if I had to go to the hospital? How would I call our families to give them an update when I didn’t have a cell phone? Would the cops call me to tell me there had been an accident? If Otto wasn’t coming home ever again would the cops come to my house? With every minute my thoughts got more and more morbid. It was crushing to think of Otto never walking through our door again.
Otto was over an hour late. She wasn’t picking up her phone. She hadn’t called us. I needed to get my family fed as soon as possible so that I would be free to deal with whatever crisis was about to strike.
As I began to toss the ingredients in the pot, my worry transformed from nonsensical hysterics to being founded in something that might soon be very real. I bartered with myself and the universe. I had a mantra. “I don’t care whatever time it is when Otto walks through that door, I just want her to walk through it.”
The aromas of sautéed garlic and ginger floated through the air. I tried to chop the apples as quickly as I could. I kept on repeating my mantra over and over again.
I don’t care when Otto walks through that door, I just want her to walk through it. I don’t care when Otto walks through that door, I just want her to walk through it. I don’t care when Otto walks through that door, I just want her to walk through it.
I must have willed it so hard that it came true. I turned around and Otto was there.
She was bracing for my anger, but I just wrapped my arms around her and kissed her hard on the lips. I crushed her entire body with my worry, she tried to tell me about the car getting stuck on a patch of ice and how she finally got it unstuck, but I didn’t care. All I cared is that she was safe, standing in the doorway of our home, breathing. Then I could breathe again, too. And remind her to call next time she was going to be late.