What if

The puppies whined and pounced at me as my alarm went off Saturday morning. After snoozing it five times, I finally obeyed their wishes to feed them. We were alone (like usual as of late). If anyone didn’t know, every weekend after Thanksgiving marks the first weekend of rifle season for deer. My husband was out doing one of the things he loves most, hunting.

I dillydallied for a little before I strapped on my game face and tackled the hoard of leaves piled around my mom’s pool area. The wind only assisted me sometimes, but I managed to leaf blow quite a bit. It was therapeutic, like cleaning. I enjoyed looking back to see an area once riddled with fall’s notorious gift now clean of the autumnal litter.

This year has been different since we took up the yard maintenance best we can for my mom and stepdad. I’ve never worked a leaf blower in my life, especially not a gas powered one. After the first time I used it, I was sore, but I held the dang thing for four hours. This time was three hours, and I was only tight for a day.

When I work, I like to do it until the job is done. Usually time is against me on this mindset, but that’s also usually my own fault. I felt macho using my husband’s stupidly loud blower, until I went to the gas station to fill up the tank of mix.

I couldn’t get the top off. It had strange prongs and my husband twists things on unnecessarily tight (I’ve fought with previously opened jars of pickles and jam because he was the last to use them). He thinks it’s funny. I do if he’s around to undo it.

Luckily, a guy pulled up behind me to fill up his car, so I asked for his help. He didn’t have a mask on, but I felt like I didn’t have much options other than leaving. I already put in my credit card, so I was determined to get gasoline.

 He certainly saw me struggling with the cap. I did that for a little to let him plug in his card and gas nozzle. I wanted to test his toxic masculinity to see if he’d assume I’m a little weak girl who needs his strength and waltz over to do what some men love to do. Especially small-town men. He didn’t, which pleased me enough to write about him. He was nice about it when I finally asked, and the nicest part was that he waited for me to ask.

When I quit leaf blowing Saturday, the wind blew leaves into areas I just cleaned. And my book was getting good, so I decided to lay in bed and let the wind do its thing. Half an hour into it, I heard a series of cracks. I glanced behind me through the open blinds to see the second dead tree of the year fall on the area I hadn’t cleaned up yet.

I thought maybe I had some luck after all. I wondered if I had been out there whether the roaring leaf blower would’ve covered the warning sounds, and whether I would’ve been in the unfortunate target zone at all. I wondered what if, but I was simply grateful I was, in bed with my puppies, able to ponder it.

There were only a few moments in my life where luck took my side. A few seconds earlier or later and I wouldn’t be here. Sometimes the thoughts cross my mind about car accidents, and my husband has been traveling plenty lately. I wonder if one day he won’t come home, and all I’ll have is his precious Remi pup and tight caps my hands can’t unscrew. Maybe I’d get a stronger grip, or maybe I’d burn it out of heartbroken spite. (Probably both.)

My Saturday told me that I’d be able to get by without him (that’s what I tell myself), but to keep going without him wouldn’t be as easily put. One day, a weekend, or even a week without him is manageable, and he often calls or texts at some point in the day. Going the remainder of my life without his existence would leave me wrecked.

I don’t think of those what ifs to make me feel down or worry into a frenzy. But I don’t block them out or pray they don’t come true, not anymore. I know life is unpredictable, so I allow myself to think about things that could happen. They flit lightly through my head and leave as quickly as they came, and I know it’ll never be enough to prepare me for the unpredictable. I can only hope one day when I’m blindsided by a tragedy, I won’t take it as hard as someone who never thought those things could happen to her.

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