I left the office at four o’clock yesterday. The sunshine nearly blinded me, an unusual occurrence. Then again, I’ve never left the office that early.
Getting into my car, I followed the usual ritual: buckled seat belt, turned right out of the driveway, made another right on the first street, headed towards home. Sylvia Poggioli of All Things Considered interviewed Venetians on how cruise ships in the small canal affect the fragile landmark, rattling the ancient architecture. How silly, I thought, that anyone would consider ruining such a valuable landmark just so a couple from Akron can snap a few photos of St. Mark’s from the foredeck.
Pulling up to the first stoplight, I decided to pick up some groceries instead of sitting at home in a daze, so I turned right instead of left.
I had never seen the parking lot so empty. As I walked toward the store entrance, I felt overdressed in my work clothes – who goes grocery shopping in a dress and heels? I pretended I was sophisticated, masking the truth with straight shoulders and an expressionless face.
Grabbing a basket, I briskly canvassed the aisles. Instead of inspecting all the latest nail polish colors, like I usually did, I mentally reviewed my shopping list. Travel-sized body wash for my upcoming trip? I decided against it. How easy it was to switch back into hyper-frugality mode.
I bypassed the book aisle, where I would ordinarily browse the latest bestsellers, and went straight for the necessities. Diet Dr. Pepper (on sale), allergy medicine, coffee (also on sale), yogurt. Like an old pro I hardly even spared a second glance at the magazines and gum on the impulse shelves lining the registers.
The fading afternoon heat greeted me tiredly as I exited the building. While I walked to my car, a worn gentleman in a baseball cap and dirty jeans approached me in beggar’s communion, an oft-repeated ritual in my beach city.
“Excuse me miss, can you spare any change?” His faded blue eyes matched the heat-worn sky, I noticed.
“No, I don’t have anything.” Despite the truth of my statement, I could feel the shame gnawing away inside. The only difference between me and this man was that this time, I had a safety net.
As I buckled my seat belt again, my phone jingled. I knew who it was without looking at the screen.
“Hey hon, what’s up?” Mike asked. I could tell by his tone he already knew.
“Well, I saw it coming,” I sighed. “I got laid off today. The whole company was let go. Don’t worry though,” I reassured him, “I’ve already filed for unemployment, and my resume is ready to go.”
“It’s okay, hon,” he said firmly. “We’re going to be fine. Don’t worry about anything.”
“Alright,” I said.
“I’m on my way home right now, okay?”
“Okay,” I said.
I hung up, and drove home. At least this time, I wasn’t alone.
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