The setting sun has burst its shell, covering the sky in a messy lilac yolk. My footsteps on the gravel sound like a thousand Roman soldiers as I march up the driveway. Every day is an exact replica of the last, mass produced in a day factory somewhere by a man with no imagination. The cycle of tomorrow becoming today and today becoming yesterday is happening far too quickly, like a revolving door I can’t escape from. I’ll be thirty nine next week.
I enter my unlocked house to the smell of boiled vegetables. Every room is filled with steam. I throw my briefcase under the stairs and loosen my tie. Through the cloud enveloping the kitchen my wife emerges, smiling and holding my son. He’s nearly three and looks bigger than he did ten hours ago. Something doesn’t feel right.
After dinner I melt into the couch, still in my work clothes. There’s no beer left in the house, so I open a bottle of red wine. I hate red wine. My daughter, Stephanie, sits in front of the fireplace watching the TV. She’s sitting too close. I tell her she’ll go blind if she sits any closer. She doesn’t listen, because she has the newfound wisdom of an eighteen year old. Superman Returns in on at 9. All four of us watch it. I can’t remember that last time we all sat down to watch a film together. Michael falls asleep after twenty minutes, and Linda drops in and out, but Stephanie’s is caught up in the film.
“Well that was boring.” I announce as the credits start to roll. “You’ll never beat the original.”
Stephanie disagrees and we get into an unecessary arguement. She says the only reason I didn’t like it was because I have some kind of blind nostalgic allegience to the Reeve films, which she insists have aged very badly.
“In thirty years time people will realise how Returns is a much better film.” she says.
As I get into bed I ask Linda if Stephanie has always hated me.
“She doesn’t hate you.” she says, as she pulls herself close to me. We make love, but I’m not there.
Afterwards, as I lay on my back staring at the black ceiling which could be a mile or an inch away from my face I become equally claustrophic and agoraphobic at the same time. Something feels wrong. I feel trapped, trapped in a week that has only just started, trapped in a life that I never planned on having.
Then it hits me, a shiver runs down my spine when I realise that I’ve walked into the wrong house. This is not my family. Panic digs her hands into my chest, stopping me from running. What the hell is going on? Why didn’t they say anything? After I’ve had a minute to think I realise that I have no choice but to stay. Just like when someone calls you by the wrong name and you don’t correct them immediately, you’re stuck with that name forever, forced to play along.
Six months go by and the bluff continues. The awkardness has subsided and it almost feels like home. I still keep in touch with my old family on Facebook, but I’m trying to make a go of it here. I could be happy here.