Bree Van De Kamp Finds Enlightenment
by Jennifer-Oksana

Your life is a checklist.

And to write your lists, you have a very nice pen that your Uncle Richard gave you for your high school graduation to check off events, write and rewrite the lists, shift from day to week to year. You have simple black notebook to record these lists in, with archival quality paper and college-ruled lines because wide-ruled is simply a waste of time.

Your life is a neat, balanced, comprehensible list of things to do, to conquer, and to complete before that last scheduled event overcomes all list-making.

Your best friend in college, the one who didn't think much of Rex because he seemed, "I don't know...he seems kind of boring. Maybe too interested in...I think he's queer, okay?" was not a list-maker. She had an innate sense of time and space, and a casual distaste for anything resembling order. You were always the one to remind her when her finals were, and until she told you to stop it, you kept her schedule next to yours.

"Damn it, Bree," she said, pushing back soft waves of dark brown hair, so naturally healthy that she could use Suave or the fifty dollar a bottle brand and it didn't matter, "You have to stop planning to live and just, I don't know, do it!"

She died in a car accident in New York two years after you graduated. You don't know what she was doing, exactly; her parents didn't know or couldn't remember, her sister hated her and didn't care, but you can imagine she was doing something interesting. Smoking a cigarette, probably, wearing a coat that cost too much and needed to be dry cleaned but looked just right on Danielle anyway.

In your dreams, she always slips because she's wearing impractical boots and this is the metaphor your brain is apparently stuck on. The wrong kind of boots can kill you, even if you are the kind of person who lives and breathes Life with a capital L. It doesn't make any sense to you, because either A) Danielle's death is a comment on the eternal need for practical footwear, B) Or it's about the triumph of the planner over the dreamer in real life, or C) shit happens at random for no reason at all.

Rex objected about naming your daughter Danielle, but Rex objects a great deal on subjects he knows very little. And Danielle is very pretty, but otherwise, she's nothing like Danielle, which you think is a pity. Of course not everyone can be careful the way you are careful -- it takes time and energy and an innate love of making lists that very few are apparently gifted with (to your disappointment) -- but you think that if not, one could at least be in love with the world and not giving a damn, the way Danielle was.

In some ways, you think you are more in love with Danielle than you are with Rex. Oh, Rex fits the list. He is moderately attractive, smart with some ambition but not so much that he's not interested in the family, interested in community affairs, an interesting conversationalist on certain topics, a satisfying if methodical lover, nothing to complain about. But you can never forget the time you were in a "Mommy and Me" pre-k class with Andrew and someone asked you to describe Rex.

You couldn't think of anything to say. Because you couldn't remember what he looked like, or anything he had ever said.

But you can still remember what Danielle wore to the Tri-Delt Winter Formal just to piss Joanna Lynsberger off. She could carry off scarlet, though you always thought worn Chuck Taylors, especially neon green Chuck Taylors and black fishnet stockings, was simply asking the fashion gods to look askance at you. You even said so, and now, you carry a special splinter of guilt for ever uttering those words.

Danielle was special. You loved her, and maybe were in love with her, but she wasn't what you wanted. You did not lust after Danielle. You didn't want to be Danielle, fluttering at the edges of chaos and then collapsing into long periods of doing nothing at all. Whenever you tried, the list would start sitting at the pit of your stomach, steadfast and there and growing. All of that living Danielle did wouldn't pay the bills; it wouldn't give you children and a home and the nicest garden on Wisteria Lane despite Martha Huber's attempts at sabotage.

It gives you, once again, the conundrum of the boot in New York in the rain. The unknowability of death pinning you between headlights at forty-three point two miles per hour, inevitable and outside of time. If Danielle had listened to you on just this one thing, would she be alive, talking to you about how Rex didn't deserve you as you baked chocolate-raisin-oatmeal cookies and dabbed your eyes with a dishtowel?

Would she be talking to you at all? It again spins down to the great empty abyss, that swirling universe of unpredictable that makes your stomach hurt, makes your eyes ache, and drives you to itching, uneasy insomnia. Thinking that maybe you should have had a job all those years. Thinking about what if, what if. None of which you can control and make into what is.

So you cross out the current list. Make another one. What TO DO Next, by Bree Van De Kamp. To Do in cursive, underlined, like always. But the problem with this list is that it's not specific enough. What to do? Well, you still need to do the laundry, make dinner, et cetera. Life does not stop because you miss your best friends, your son is an amoral little bastard, your daughter is a manipulative blank, and your husband may not love you anymore.

And leaving things undone hurts you so much. It makes your stomach ache, and you're still the one who does them, in the end. Putting things off does not banish them.

So there are quotidian things To Do. But what else? Mary Alice's suicide. You need to know why. There's more than that. Andrew's crime is unresolved. Something must happen. Your marriage is unresolved, possibly due to a Rex midlife crisis, or perhaps Rex is gay, like Danielle always thought.

Your life is left To Do, and you are not sure what to do with it anymore. It appears doing well and loving your family and taking care of yourself is not the asset you'd always imagined it to be. You have your friends and even if you are not Living, a la Danielle, you don't want to find your gun, put it to your temple, and end this existence.

You think maybe this is another conundrum. Why did Danielle's boot lead to her death? Why, if you are not living, do you love life and hate death? What is so terrifying about the unknown if it's the unexpected and spontaneous in life that's so wonderful? Why are neat houses and responsibility antithetical to feeling the sun on your back and smiling?

There is so much left to do, that you can't stand not imagining and planning it out, seeing the good and orderly and proper win over the dark, chaotic, and untoward in the end. Andrew will realize what life means. Rex will discover the grass not only isn't greener on the other side, it's brown and hasn't been watered in six months. Mary Alice's death will have meaning.

Danielle would have approved of your life after all, because it's yours and you are mostly happy.

You take the pen up again, crossing out the first heading, feeling the space around you clear, form lines, make sense, and subside into light and loveliness again. And this time, you have the right list to start with.

"Things to Be Resolved Before My Six Month Vacation..."

You think that this is a list that anyone can understand and support.

This makes you happy.


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