I wake up early. The mattress is memory foam, so he never even notices when I slip out of bed and begin my morning routine. By the time I'm in the bathroom, I've already shed most of the layers of sleep from my body and mind. In my morning life, I pretend I live alone; the eternal bachelorette with too many quirky habits and too much egoism to ever attract a life mate. I squeeze the toothpaste from the bottom, and I don't think I could live with anyone who didn't do the exact same. I'm pretty sure if I met morning-me during the daytime, we wouldn't be friends. Not for long.
I dampen my unruly hair; a temporary fix for my morning workout. I'm convinced that somebody does care that I fix my hair and apply a little makeup. It's about this time every morning when I hear it- the toilet flushes. Not my toilet, but Regina's toilet. She's an early riser, too. The walls in the duplex must be thin where the bathrooms adjoin, because I hear her every morning. Regina comes home late, when she comes home at all, and she leaves early, but later than me. In fact, it was months after moving in that I finally saw my neighbor for the first time. It was nothing spectacular. She just smiled and waved as I was driving off one day. Her hair is long and plain, and she wears it in a way that frames her less than beautiful face. I don't even know her real name. I call her Regina or Rachel, whichever she seems more like at the time. In the mornings, probably because she wakes up too early for her age, I call her Regina. Such a practical name. Regina.
Her routine, like her duplex, mirrors mine. No, it shadows it. It follows mine like a timid doppleganger. I imagine her listening, head pressed to the bathroom wall, waiting for the water to go off after the sound of brushing subsides. Then and only then can she turn on the water to brush her own teeth. She mimics my routine as if it will, given enough time, transform her into me. Doesn't everybody want that? To be married happily to the man who adores them most in the world. In a secure job where they are appreciated and needed. To be talented and successful in life. See? I told you morning-me was egotistical.
But my day is long, with ups and downs like any other. Another trip to the gym after work before I am finally home. There are things to do, always things to do. The floor needs to be vacuumed or swept, or the pugs need to go outside, or I have to use the bathroom, then I'll have to think about dinner, and I don't know what to cook or if we even have all the ingredients, and if we don't, we'll have to go to the store and it'll be 7:30 before we even start cooking, which means it will be 9 o'clock, as usual, before we actually eat, and by the end of dinner I'm ready to pass out from the exhaustion and frustration of a day that is ultimately like any other- full of ups and downs. Sometimes it's like the day is stuck on repeat and all I want to do is break away and be Rachel. So at night I follow her routine in earnest, with my head pressed to the wall between us, hoping that if I shadow her perfectly, the thin walls that separates us will open, and we can change places whenever we want to not be ourselves.