Rolling Suburbia


I run my fingers through the carpet. It’s not soft, or silky, or even really comfortable at all. My cousin and I pour glue on our legs and sit still so that we can peel it off of our bodies, like a film of second skin. The remains of that gross pastime stay stuck in the carpet. I come to the conclusion that this carpet is quite ugly.

My grandparents’ home is in rolling suburbia, with houses and yards so clearly planned it hurts. Everything about it is cookie-cutter and bland. You need to drive to get anywhere interesting, and I don’t have a license yet. Their house is cluttered beyond belief, and there’s absolutely nothing fun in it. There are stacks of manila folders piled in every corner and rows of rolled change underneath my grandmother’s bed. Being there still has a silver lining.

The room with the gross carpet, the bonus room, is tucked in the nook of the house, a crow’s nest to the rest of the neighborhood and allows you to look out any window onto the street or the yard. We climb over old armchairs with plastic coverings, while old Bollywood movies and romance novels sit on the shelf. I touch all this gingerly because the dust that comes off is so thick it looks like ash. The opposite shelf holds old pictures of my whole family, including my cousins and I. My grandfather’s desk is covered in news articles, mathematical formulas, and diagrams of the stars. This room is unused for the most part unless my brother, cousins, and I are here.

What is interesting to us children is the TV, even though it is old and boxy. Just like the rest of the house, there is nothing modern about it. All we do is watch I Love Lucy reruns in black and white on VHS. Every night, my oldest cousin sets it up. We hunker down into our sleeping bags, even though there are enough beds. We talk over the whole show.

Eventually, it is “lights out.” The TV zeros out and it becomes dark.

 I turn to the side and whisper, “Is anyone awake?” 

We chatter, we laugh, and we make too much noise. We each furtively wrestle out of the tangled mess that is the sleeping bag to see who can touch their toes, get to the wall the fastest, or win the thumb war championship.

Like clockwork, our respective mothers come in, looking hassled. We dive back into our positions, feigning sleep. I would like to think I am a decent actor with all this practice. It’s easy at this point. I roll over and rub my eyes to fake the bleariness. Together, we gaslight our mothers into thinking everyone was asleep, and they made it up in their heads. The kicker is giving the performance an annoyed edge because they “woke us up” unnecessarily. Perfection.

It becomes late enough that no one responds to my queries, and I am the last man standing. I have trouble falling asleep right away, and I pick at the ugly carpet with my hands. There’s a lot about this house that I don’t like. It isn’t the most fascinating place in the world, but being there still brings me joy.

Anika Carlson is a junior at Syracuse University majoring in International Relations and Information Management & Technology and minoring in Italian. Anika is from just outside of Chicago, Illinois. Besides school, she is involved with a social sorority on campus, a member of U100, a member of Dean’s Team (the ambassador program for College of Arts and Sciences) and she also works in Recreation Services here on campus.