Emily wanted to sit in Dad’s chair, but it was gone. Dan had taken it, and she knew it was better just to let it go.
Emily looked at the dishes piled in the sink and considered leaving them, they would be there tomorrow. Everything would be here tomorrow except Dad. This emptiness caught her by surprise and for a moment she felt weak, “No!” Emily said stomping her foot. She advanced through the ache, into the kitchen, and opened the dishwasher.
The kitchen always felt safe. It was the place where her mind didn’t second-guess, it was the place where clutter was forbidden, and it was the place where she was in control. Emily surveyed the mess and then began.
Dan got to fly in from Portland for Dad’s last few days. Dan didn’t do the work of death; he just arrived for the end. Where was Dan when Dad roamed the house looking for Mom? Where was Dan when Dad couldn’t remember where he was? Where was Dan when Dad wanted to drive? Where was Dan? “Portland,” Emily said aloud as she banged a pot into the bottom rack.
“I paid for the chair and I’m taking it,” Emily said jamming a plate into an open space. “It doesn’t matter what you bought, Dan,” another plate hit the rack.
Dan got what he wanted, just like when they were young, Emily always took what was left. She wanted the chair; Dan got it. She wanted to move Dad to Portland; he stayed in Wichita. She wanted a traditional burial; Dad was cremated. She wanted Dan to say he was sorry for not being there for the past three years; she got accused of stealing the rugs, the pots and the pictures.
Dan left and Emily held her tongue. She stuffed all of the years of second place and held on.
She finished packing the dishwasher, closed the door and turned the dial to “Pots and Pans.” The dishwasher came to life. A surging feeling crawled up Emily’s legs and into her gut, tightening as it went. She bent her knees, sat on the floor, and pressed her back against the dishwasher. She felt warm as the swelling sounds of water amplified. Emily drew her legs up to her chest, wrapped her arms around her knees and let herself go.