There’s a tickling sensation on the back of my neck as I come to consciousness. It’s a floor ant, making its way up to my head. I sweep at it with the backside of my fingers and roll over. I linger a bit more on the weathered mattress on the tiled floor, staring at the ceiling. It’s made of grey PVC, so I see a warped version of myself in it. A thin, shaggy-haired young man with caramel skin, adorned only by the large boxer underwear that threatens to fall off if I stand.
Through the large windows, I hear father outside, talking to the dogs.
“Don’t poo here again” he sternly warns the smallest of the three.
The dog whimpers in return, and father laughs. It’s happy laughter.
Through the door, I hear Little Brother bombarding mother with questions. He’s excited about Anthony’s birthday party today.
“I’m going to wear my sneakers. Will there be clowns?”
Mother doesn’t bother answering, instead continuing to hum a Christian tune to herself.
Maybe I should get up, I think. I turn.
Wait…this isn’t my room. I look up. The ceiling isn’t PVC, it’s the concrete of a multi-storied decking. My mattress is still on the floor, but it’s not a weathered one. It’s a new, hard mattress. I don’t even know if the floor is tiled. There’s a red carpet covering it. There is one small window, not two. The air is thick and hot. There’s no cool morning breeze in here.
I rise quickly, and my image in the mirror across the room greets me to realization. It’s still me in my oversized underwear, thin shaggy-haired caramel-skinned youngster. But my work clothes hang next to the mirror: green khakis and a white T-shirt, both sharply pressed from the night before. A pair of yellowish-orange boots is on the floor below them.
I glance at the clock. It says 7:20am. I have a meeting at 8:30. But I don’t feel like going anywhere. I just want to lie in bed all day and dream of days when life wasn’t this empty. I want laughter and company and friends and family. I don’t want to live in a strange land with strange people for the next one year. I get back into bed and pull the covers.
I want to go home.