I'm sitting in my bedroom in my parents' house. I've rearranged the furniture to try to get a new start with this room and this house and summers in this pleasant, pretty, but ultimately absolutely boring suburb. But I can't get the furniture right, and most of my things are still packed up. My dad and I just got back from Chinese food in Ferndale and so I don't want to move. I feel like I'm being sucked into the pillow-top mattress that's been on my bed since the last summer I spent in this house, three years ago—the summer yogurt and some pretzels became a valid dinner to me, the summer I gave up the Sims for at least a year because the computer ate my dynasty of four generations, the summer we were lonely late into the night, even when we weren't alone, the summer the last of my grandparents died. After the funeral we went back to my grandpa's apartment at the assisted living place and packed up the photo albums he'd made for my mom, the chairs from the kitchen table, some flannel sheets my mom had bought him. I had loved my grandparents' couch since they bought it when they moved into their trailer years before, but there was no way we could take it. My grandma's mattress, barely used because she'd spent so long in hospital beds, we did take. It's one and a half times as thick as my previous mattress and now my bed towers above the rest of my room. I don't want to think about that summer, but it's hard not to.
There are sirens to the west of my house, and I can hear traffic over the twilight chirps and calls of the birds. There's a plane somewhere above me. It's still not dark outside, so I don't want to turn on the lights, but what light is left hovers above the treetops and roofs and doesn't really enter my room. The computer screen makes me blind to everything else in my room, as it sort of does to everything, even in full daylight.
My mom wants me to make the brownies I said I'd make for her to take to work tomorrow. I don't want to. I'm supposed to add orange zest and orange juice—the recipe called for Cointreau but my dad concluded it was too old-fashioned for Kroger to carry, although he was so old-fashioned he didn't realize a grocery store would carry liquor, let alone self-serve. The orange juice he buys these days has pulp in it; he's revised his shopping practices to suit just the two of them, because we children don't live here anymore. Except, voilà, here I am again, begging for pulp-less orange juice and rolling my eyes at the skim milk and wondering what on earth these people eat. There's Velveeta in the cheese and meat drawer, which we never used to buy. "Your mother keeps going on these nostalgia-kicks," he told me as we headed to the checkout at the Kroger in St. Clair Shores (ours is undergoing renovations). "She'll never use it, but it's better to buy it so she knows it's there than to listen to her ask for it over and over."
The bells in the church are tolling nine o'clock. When the carillon started up sometime in the afternoon, my dad said, "The torturer's at it again." He can't stand it when they get the music wrong. Or when there are interloper grasses in our lawn. Or when paint is cracking off the house. At least he can happily walk, unlike my mom. It's going to be a long summer.