Now don’t you understand…

I can’t believe I did it.
Shucks, man. Dang. I’m still floored.
If you don’t believe me, I’ve got the fried pickles, camo cake, and raspberry coke to prove it.
Tonight, it was time. A week before, driving down the road where I used to work, where I used to see him, where it seemed like everything built up and then everything fell down, ruined me. I couldn’t take it. Paranoia, panic…even in the later days it just made me sick.
However, my current location makes the traverse of that road inevitable.
Well then…
“Why not?” I thought.
Then, “Nah.”
“But it might…”
“Nope. Not gonna do it.”
Then it was 9:30 and I was sitting in my car, in the parking lot across from my old workplace, trying to breathe in and out. Inhale. Exhale. Talking up those you-can-do-this-girl speeches…only I felt speechless so no words were coming out.
I drove across the road, checked the parking lot and did the mental checklist of who was or wasn’t there, and then parked. I couldn’t do it…I couldn’t walk inside….no…yes…do it…no!
I’m learning to let my mind control me instead of my emotions. So I did.
The first person I saw was my friend, who came dashing down the front line, through the brown swingy door, and threw her arms around me.
Two months.
Doesn’t seem like that long, really.
But it’s been eternity, people. Days of counting down hours and wishing the minutes would pass just a little bit faster…wishing the time to vanish but it only drags on slower until every second is like the ticking of a grandfather clock. Tick. Swing. Tock. Back. Tick. Forth. Tock. It does something. Something to your perception. It makes two months seem long enough to fit entire lifetimes in them over and over again.
I stood there, waiting while my friend scurried around the kitchen and front line grabbing me a cup and some of her birthday cake and some signature fried food that I hadn’t stayed long enough to sell. Another person said hi to me. Two others stared, and I couldn’t quite read their expressions. It’s ok. I don’t expect everyone to forgive me. I’m a bit of a Hester Prynne–as soon as I walk in that place my scarlet letter is plain for all to see.
I looked around. Saw the red light flashing on the drink machine and knew that something must be out. Knew that if I wanted to, I could touch my fingers to the imprint to unlock the restock menu. Reload the drink myself. I remember every time I pulled the booths out and swept under them. Every table wiped. Every napkin rack reloaded. Every order taken. Every time people decided to come in five minutes before close. Goofy faces. Messed up orders. Angry customers. Winks. Secret texting. Weird drive-through people. Wiping trays. Burning brownies.
And here it was…. Other people were doing my job–the one that I had nearly perfected and knew like the back of my hand. And it was going on.
Like I had never been there.
The deep-seated, heavy pain that has been fighting to choke me since “the last night” came back. It was easy to imagine that my whole existence as a worker there was just a dream. Everything seemed foreign.
But oh…so familiar. So sweet. So sour. So much to remember.
I walked out with my white and blue bag, knowing that I had done something daring. Something no one asked me to do or told me I should do. I was brave.
I am brave.
Then I got into the car and cried. Because somewhere underneath the monstrous layers of my habits and hurt, there is still me.
“I get a little bit bigger but then, I admit, I’m just the same as I was. Now don’t you understand…that I’m never changing who I am…”
I pulled out, and swerved to avoid disaster.
And smiled, because there’s one kitty in a fast food parking lot that will live to see another day.

2nd part of “Their Eyes” should be up tomorrow. Goodnight ya’ll.



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