I lean over in bed and tug on the curtains to see if the rain has stopped. No such luck. It’s still dark out there. The sky is a sickly kind of grey. It’s been drizzling for hours and the late morning is starting to look more like dusk.
Each time I check I’m more convinced I should stay in my pajamas and pull the blankets back over my head. But that would just mean dragging myself out later, and the prospect of being in a grocery store crawling with people I might know… well that’s even less appealing than the rain.
If I’m gonna go, I have to go now. If I don’t, it’s another night of Ramen Noodles, and I’m not sure my body isn’t already morphing into a pillar of salt.
Moisture is everywhere so I don’t even try and tame the frizzy mop of hair on my head. Ponytail it is. A yoga pants and hoodie kind of morning, all dreary and gross outside. Pretty much how I’ve felt all week.
Thank you Mother Nature, for understanding.
Thankfully the store is down the street. I hop into the car and make the five minute drive. I could’ve walked. Maybe I should have. It’s not like I can’t use the exercise. But then I’d be left alone with my thoughts, and those have not been loyal companions as of late.
So no. Car ride, heat on, blasting some senseless, repetitive pop song on the radio. Loudly. Because I don’t want to think about what they’re saying, I just want to shake my head to a numbing beat, sing so hard my own ears bleed. I don’t want to believe in their promises of love and happiness and forever. They don’t know it yet, but those things don’t exist.
I get out of the car and slam the door behind me. Stupid teeny boppers. I let them get under my skin.
I step on the mat that opens the automatic doors leading into the grocery store. I’m immediately greeted with color and scent. Sweet, fresh, watered. Fruits and vegetables, a few stay at home moms trying to silence their children, and an elderly man riding along in the shopping buggy, pretty much everything I love about an abandoned grocery store mid-morning.
My bad mood tempers. I start feeling around the fruit baskets, bruising a few mangoes, tucking a packet of strawberries into my basket.
Maybe it’s time I start eating a little better.
I stare at them, at the prospect of health and long-life shining in their colorful skins, and I reach for the chocolate fondue mix.
I’m not quite ready for better. Not yet.
I slink through the aisles grabbing at things, tossing them into my basket. Chocolate chip granola bars, kettle chips (but they’re 40% less fat so that has to count for something), whipped cream, a bag of chocolate kisses, a liter of milk, and a half dozen eggs.
Can’t live on junk forever. Even I get hungry for actual food sometimes.
I tread toward the cereal aisle, stand back to make room for an elderly woman and her walker, and examine the selection. I bite my lip. I know what I want. What I’ve always gotten. But my fingers curl.
I can smell them, even here, the marshmallows in the box, sickeningly sweet and delicious.
I sigh. His eyes, bright blue, are boring at me from over the spoon. He’s got that awful look on his face. When he opens his mouth to speak, I turn away because I can’t bear to hear what I know is coming.
I cringe. My eyes open suddenly. I didn’t even realize that I closed them.
No. I’m not sure I can handle sitting over a bowl of the cereal we shared every morning and have him not be there. Have the smell of it bring me back to those warm mornings where we dragged out of bed and he pulled me into his arms while I burned our omelettes.
His breath would smell sweet, like milk and sugar, and I’d know he ate because he knew I’d burn the food. And he didn’t care. He loved that I still tried.
And then everything hurts.
I have to get home. I have to leave this place before my heart falls from my chest onto the tiles and gets swept up with the muddy grime.
I reach for a frosted wheat cereal on the top shelf. I’m on my tip toes, my sneakers squeaking against the floor, angling it with my fingers but it just moves from side to side – it won’t come down.
“Here.” A man’s hands are beside mine suddenly, effortlessly, nudging the box foward and into my waiting arms.
I look over, meaning to smile, to thank him, when his blue eyes slice me open.
My palms sweat. I’m suddenly aware of my ratty old sneakers, the over-sized sweatshirt, the lack of make-up, until I realize he’s seen me in nothing but an old t-shirt and fuzzy slippers.
My cheeks burn, my ears ring and I wish the floor would open and swallow me whole.
“You look good,” he says, since I say nothing.
But I know he’s lying. I look awful. That’s just something you say to someone whose heart you’ve stomped on. Just like all the other lies. It’s not you, it’s me. I just need some time. We can still be friends.
Lies. All of them.
“How’ve you been?” He starts to shift his weight uncomfortably. I know I should say something, but I can’t bring myself to speak. “It’s been a while. I, um, I tried calling you but I never heard back.”
“I’ve been busy,” I finally say, but its strangled and awful and I want to take it back the minute it slips from my mouth.
“That’s good,” he says, and it’s like we’ve only just met. Like we didn’t spend late nights sharing our hopes and dreams, like I didn’t envision spending the rest of my life with him.
“Trying something new?” he asks, motioning toward my cereal box.
I can’t have this conversation. I won’t.
“Uh, I really have to go. I’m running late for… something.”
“Right.” He stuffs his hands into his pockets and smiles. But its forced. He wants so badly to make this ok. It’s not. “Right. Well, it’s really nice to see you again.”
“Yea.” I spin on my heels and turn the other way. I won’t lie and say the same. It’s too much. My heart can’t take it.
I check-out numbly, hearing the beeps and feeling more hollow with each one. I replay his words, words meant for another person, any person – not me. Not the girl he professed to love, who shared her heart and her dreams and her bed.
How did this happen? How did we go from meaning something to one another to being just another somebody you meet in the grocery store?
I weakly thank my cashier and haul my goods to the car. The minute I sit and shut the door behind me, I cry.