Post 505: The laptop debacle

I left my laptop at the office on Wednesday night. 

Resting on its docking station in my organized mess of a cubicle, it beckoned to me. Backpack strap in hand, I reached over to undock, lift, and put my laptop into its cozy compartment. But at the last moment I stopped myself. And took a step back.

I realized it had been years since I had last left my laptop at work. In my early 20s I had a less-demanding job and my laptop entertained itself in its docking station all night, just about every night. I’d walk the 1.5 miles up the hill to my rundown apartment sans laptop, feeling free and thinking about what I’d spend my 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. hours doing.

Sometimes I’d paint. Sometimes I’d write. Sometimes I’d walk or (try to) run. I’d often make myself a fabulous dinner and drink a few double IPAs, and I always read books well into the evening, far past what is now my bedtime.

Knocking myself out of this cloud of reminiscence, I cinched the top of my backpack, folded the top over and put it on. I rushed out of the building, reminding myself that nobody knew my laptop wasn’t in my bag. 

But once outside I started to panic, and I almost turned around.

I have to do this and I have to write this and I never sent that one note and I was supposed to thank that one person but I never did and I know I owe her that story by the end of the night how am I going to do that if my laptop is at work?

I shoved these thoughts down and told myself that people can wait, not everything has to be urgent, and it’s unlikely you’d even open your laptop if you brought it home anyway. 

But it would be such a pain in the ass to get a text tonight and have to run back into the office to grab my laptop. You just don’t get it.

Okay, we’ll leave the work phone in the car, locked up all night. You won’t even know someone texted you, and shame on them for texting after hours anyway!

But what if it’s this person or this person finally gets back to me or they text me mad about something and expect an answer?

Who cares?

I do. 

Well you’ve been running yourself ragged for weeks, you haven’t exercised at all in nearly two, and you haven’t been eating very well. You’re not taking care of yourself.

You’re right. 

I know I am.

I’ll just watch that docuseries about the religious cult in Oregon and forget all about what’s going on in my laptop’s universe.

Good idea.

Cool.

——

At 10:00:

She’s going to be so pissed at me if I don’t get that story to her during her daytime in Japan. We both know I’m late. I’m just going to grab my phone from the car and make sure she hasn’t sent me anything. 

Okay phew, she hasn’t. But I still need to send something so she knows I’m working on it. Maybe I can borrow Nick’s laptop — or wait! I can just use the app on my phone that has all the documents in it. Perfect! I wonder if it’ll let me open in Microsoft Word on my phone — aha! It does! Oh perfect. I’ll just change those couple of things and send it to her so she knows I’m working on it.

Oh, Emily. What happened to you?

Post 504: ‘Go outside’

I called Nick because I’d had a frustrating afternoon.

The morning started out fine – I decided to work from home when I noticed I didn’t have any in-person meetings. I chugged along, answering emails, swapping the laundry and folding mounds of clothing. 

He spent the morning washing his bikes, checking his email, and stretching before going in for a later shift. 

After a quick visit to the local bike shop together in the name of work/life balance, I returned to my email. Because that’s sometimes all I do: answer email. 

I never made it up to my spare-bedroom office after folding all the laundry and stacking it in neat piles around the living room. I sat, holed up on the couch, scrunched, answering email. And, to be honest, I got totally lost in it. Absorbed, even. Touched by the urgency of each notification, I barely ate, drank water, or looked away from the screen. 

I fired off responses one by one, accepting some new assignments as they came in and skirting around others in politically savvy ways. 

Then there was one that made me want to throw my computer across the room. Then, shortly afterward, another. 

I often receive compliments on my work/life balance philosophy and the way I approach high-pressure situations. So it’s a good thing nobody could see my face beam like a stoplight and feel my pulse quicken, knuckles cracking in-between audible expletives. 

I called Nick because I’d had a frustrating afternoon.

He listened patiently and said the two words I needed to hear: “go outside.”

“Get on your bike,” he said, “and go for a ride, even if it’s just around town. You’ve been scrunched up on the couch all day and need to get away.”

I knew he was right. 

I shut my computer down at around 5:45 and prepped my gravel bike, Winifred, for a quick adventure. 

Down the hill and up another, the seasonal gravel road I chose for a 2.5-mile climb enveloped me in its tree-lined magical healing powers. I traversed puddle-ridden pathways and areas with more stream than road. I stopped thinking about work with each pedal rotation, splashing through puddles and picking lines to avoid large rocks.

After the first climb, I faced another – this one more daunting at 12.7% grade than I remember it being last year. 

But I did it. And I forgot about everything I was pissed about by the time I reached the epic downhill back to town.

My brain had switched channels to far more important things, like ice cream and what I wanted for dinner, instead.

There’s a massive hill hiding behind those trees, I swear.

Post 503: How to buy a house

A stream-of-consciousness account of our most recent emotional roller coaster.

You’re comfortable.

You wake up each day in a cozy, three-floor townhouse that you pay minimal monthly rent for, especially since you split it with your boyfriend.

You have clothes on your back, food in the fridge, and a job to report to each day.

You’re comfortable.

You don’t want for anything, especially since you recently upgraded big-ticket items like your laptop, mountain bike, car, and mattress.

Becoming more of an adult is something you’ve scoffed at, and if buying a house and having children moves you further into that zone, you are good. For right now, at least.

“Ha!” You normally say. “Homeownership. Sounds like that blows.”

And you go off on your merry way, gloating as your friends replace their driveways, install yard drainage, and upgrade failing HVAC systems.

You ride around on your mountain bike, loving life and its simplicity. When you bought your new vehicle, you thought, “Hmm… this will probably have a car seat or two in it someday. BUT NOT TODAY!”

You’re comfortable.

Until that one special house comes on the market and turns your world upside-down for an entire week.

Your boyfriend tells you, “It’s back!” 

You say, “I WANT THAT HOUSE.”

You both have driven by it on several occasions — together and apart — to admire its woodsiness. You were devastated when it left Zillow a month before, though you’d never even bothered to set up a viewing.

So when your boyfriend tells you “It’s back!” you both spring into action.

A message gets sent through Zillow to a random buyer’s agent, who you assume is the listing agent because this is new territory and you have no idea what you’re doing.

You see the house with the buyer’s agent, who you still believe is the listing agent. 

It’s iffy. 

There’s a lot of wood (it’s a log cabin for crying out loud!). 

The heating system leaves a lot to be desired (have you ever seen a coal/wood/oil combo?).

But the land. And the scenery. 

And when your boyfriend’s father, who toured the place with you, mentions it feels like you’re living in the Adirondacks, you practically drool all over the floor.

But your boyfriend is still on the fence. He yearns for continued simplicity, not a matchbox full of things to fix.

You give him space. (Especially after he snaps at you because you’re getting overly emotional about the whole thing and driving him bonkers.)

The next day you leave him alone for a full five hours while he’s at work. And when he comes home, you look at him nervously, hoping he’ll tell you the news you want to hear.

And he DOES.

He wants the house and the land and the weirdly arranged living room and the stupidly complicated heating system and the three-car garage space and the ugly kitchen countertops and the creaky hardwood floors. 

He wants to build mountain bike trails and start woodworking projects and ask the seller if the two of you can keep the seller’s chickens and a rooster who seems to cock-a-doodle-doo at any time of the day.

It’s idyllic. A paradise.

And then you leave town, because you have weekend plans, and drive 5+ hours through urban wastelands and smog-filled thruways. While you’re driving, he calls everyone in his family. He dials up his real-estate-agent aunt, who is fantastic at what she does. She’s on board to help, no question.

The two of you daydream about all the wonderful things you could do together.

Fast forward to the next day. You have to attend your brother’s 30th birthday party, but your prospective log home looms heavily in the air. Your goal is to submit an offer and force the seller to cancel his open house.

Your boyfriend accepts phone call after phone call during the birthday party while you help with the food and watch your 3-year-old niece. You crash in your brother’s bedroom, tap into his wifi, and submit an online offer to the agent. You’ve given the seller a deadline of 9 a.m. the next day. You float through the rest of the evening with a pep in your step and a smile on your face. You’ve told your family about the offer and they (most of them) are pulling for you.

The next day you hear nothing until after 10 a.m. They’re reviewing your offer, they say.

Then, crickets.

For hours and hours and hours.

You’re driving home, back through those 5+ hours of urban wastelands and smog-filled thruways when your agent calls. 

The seller has verbally accepted your offer, but they have a few contingencies. 

You are on cloud nine but you also feel like you’re going to puke. You accept — oh boy do you accept. And you ask them to send the paperwork through so all parties can sign.

Then, crickets.

For hours and hours and hours. You go to bed realizing you might not actually get the house, but you’re hopeful. (Perhaps naively so.)

The next morning you’re told there’s another offer on the table that the seller is considering. You put your head in your hands and start whining like a little girl.

Your boyfriend shushes you and tells you to stop getting emotional.

You get up and clean the house, which is something you do when you’re nervous and need a distraction.

You both realize you need to submit a counter offer, so you pool your money, run the numbers, and go as far in as it makes sense. 

Then you wait.

For hours and hours and hours.

You go for a hike, you take the car through the wash, you make an early dinner and get some work done.

You’re still exchanging ideas for that house, but they’re more fleeting and stated with much less vigor.

You have plans with friends that evening, so you head over there, realizing you will hear the news and either celebrate or drown your sorrows with them. 

Hours pass.

Then, a text from your boyfriend’s aunt, who ran herself ragged helping you go after that house.

You didn’t get it.

Another offer came in, all cash, no inspection.

Crestfallen.

You go home, to your cozy, three-floor townhouse that you pay minimal monthly rent for, especially since you split it with your boyfriend.

You’re comfortable.

And life resumes.

Post 502: The highway in the sky

I white-knuckled my way, steering our rented Ford Fusion around the switchback roads. Up, up, up we climbed. Twist. Turn. Twist again. The Fusion hybrid changed to its electric alter ego, informing me with a leafy icon on the dash. 

“I can drive if you’re too nervous,” Nick said. But he didn’t mean it. He too was taking in the scenery, jaw on the floor.

“No it’s okay! I got this.” 

We twisted and turned, then twisted again. We stopped at a pull-off to join other gawkers. We snapped pictures. We took it all in.

Nick had read about the alpine region and its intriguingly fragile vegetation. Oh, and the marmots. We hoped to see those after being rained out of Olympic National Park in 2016.  

We got back in the car and continued our drive. Up, up, up, to the welcome center, parking lot riddled with tour buses and driving campers. 

We parked. Used the facilities. Exchanged the obligatory “It’s amazing but sad that the plumbing works up here” comments. Bought our 1-year-old niece an “ABC” book about Rocky Mountain National Park. (“‘M’ is for ‘Marmot!’”) Then we hiked. 

In a single-file line.

Up manmade steps lined by “DO NOT CROSS” ropes. Plant markers on the side of the path illustrated the delicate tundra. Stepping over the ropes means certain death for plants that had taken decades to mature in the frigid alpine temperatures. 

Nick marveled at their resiliency. 

We inched our way up the path, hanging out behind slightly overweight human beings and families with children. We reached the top, surrounded by selfie sticks, clouds of chatter, and excited exhales. 

“Let’s get the hell out of here,” I said before we could take it all in.

We descended, step by step. Got back in the car, pulled out of the lot. Noticed with a start that, across the street from the welcome center, a van had gone off the road and stopped just before a steep drop. The van’s tire tracks cut through the vegetation, its family sprinkled across the tundra awaiting a forest ranger.

We stopped at another pull off at the Medicine Bow Curve and mountain-goated our way up a worn path. We passed a birder and a middle-aged couple wearing New Balance sneakers. 

Otherwise, serenity. And spectacular views. And MARMOTS.

We continued on to the other side of the park. Down, down, down, balancing responsible driving with sightseeing. 

Elk dotted the landscape. I wanted to see a moose and made up a song about it (foreshadowing: we’d see one later that very day). 

Throughout the drive we marveled at nature and man’s ability to build and maintain roads at such extreme altitudes.

And we both hoped they never try to save people from themselves at the expense of nature’s unbridled beauty.

Post 501: It’s here, it’s enough

After going to college in rural western New York, many of my peers flocked back to their big-city hometowns or left their backcountry nests behind in search of something bigger, something better.

I understood the allure — skyscrapers, busy streets, the excitement of being where things actually happen.

I wondered if it was something I wanted, too. So I applied to jobs in Buffalo (a good starting point, I thought), New York City, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Chicago, and Tucson. I penned dozens of cover letters and adjusted my creative résumé using Adobe InDesign. I got as far as my starting point, where a local ice cream company said “thanks, but no thanks.”

I ended up in a small town that calls itself a city, nestled just below the famous Finger Lakes region in New York State.

“Why?” You might ask. To that I say “Well, why not?”

You’re talking to the girl who grew up riding her bike down one hill and up another, passing only a decrepit department store, an abandoned train depot and dusty store fronts as she huffed and puffed to the library. 

The girl who ran miles around cornfields and pastures, with one runway of a road – damn you, Wheater! – that seemed to stretch into oblivion. 

The girl who yearned for charming coffee shops, lunch spots and, at the very least, a one-screen movie theater. 

Today, all that is here. And it’s enough.

I frequent several local coffee shops and lunch spots, and I cruise down busy streets to riverfront paths on either two wheels or two legs — it doesn’t matter which. As I’ve gotten older I’ve realized this place is as city as Emily gets, and riding my bike or walking downtown to a lively main street full of restaurants, ice cream shops, and trendy bars will never ever get old. 

Now when I visit home I relish in the long, empty roads dotted by farm creatures and picturesque barns. I appreciate what I had, what I have, and what will be. And today if I were to bike to the library from my parents’ house, I’d pass a coffee-shop lunch spot, the two-in-one deal I never knew I needed.

It’s today. I’m here or there, and that’s enough.

Oh, and did I mention the theater here has two screens?!?

Nick is one of my favorite photo subjects.

Post 500: Welcome back to Blackbyrd

In the fall of 2014 I toured a personal finance magazine’s office in downtown DC. I had actually secured an internship there for a summer but turned it down for another, more-substantial offer closer to home. 

(P.S. I’ve now worked at the company I chose over the magazine for nearly seven years.) 

(P.P.S. I knew close to nothing about personal finance, but I suppose I’m a classically trained journalist who could have figured it out.)

During the tour I couldn’t help but think about what my life there could have been like. The bright office in a beautiful building, the shiny tile floors, the official-looking professionals in their smart, tailored suits. Did I make the right decision? Two summers in a row at the same company — really, Emily? Who would I have met?

But the environment and my daydream isn’t what stood out most to me about the visit. It was the woman who would have been my boss, a notable alumna from my alma mater. It wasn’t how she looked, what she wore, or what she did — it was one tiny thing she said that she probably didn’t think anything of, but it has stuck with me for nearly 10 years. 

Twenty-Year-Old Emily: “What do you do in your free time? Do you ever write for yourself?”

Notable Alumna: “Oh gosh, by the time I get home from work, staring at another computer is the last thing I want to do.”

I was shocked. Imagine me, the self-proclaimed poetic genius five years deep into a personal blog and three years into what essentially was a writing degree, discovering that someone who could be a role model didn’t make time to write for herself outside of work.

I couldn’t imagine it because, at that time, not 24 hours could pass without Emily jotting down a new blog post idea; a young woman’s naive belief that what she has to say really really matters. 

Today, I get it. Today my eyes are tired.

But my fingers have been itching for years with blog posts unwritten and prose unprofessed. I need a creative outlet for my brain beyond the little victories I get at work in-between project planning and PowerPoint deck creation.

I’ve said this before, but this time I really mean it: this is the year I’m bringing my creative writing back. I’ve titled this “The Blog Project,” and my goal is to revisit my roots and practice my writing. (Aka I DON’T GIVE A SHIT IF ANYONE READS IT… I think.) I’m reading more than I have since I was a freckled kid lazing away over long stretches of summertime and I’ve written more poetry in the last couple of months than I have in the past four years combined.

So here’s Blackbyrd, a blog started by a 14-year-old in the heat of angst and uncertainty who is now a woman in her late 20s. I’ll be covering topics as a professional millennial plus some just-for-fun musings and projects.

Welcome back.

The search for that ‘Big Magic’

Let’s be honest here: I haven’t really channeled creativity beyond cloth-covered cubicle walls in nearly two years. Two years.

A second piece of honesty: it’s really hard to channel creativity whilst immersed in traditional corporate America. I’m fortunate to have forged muddy, puddle-ridden pathways for my creative juices to flow down…though, admittedly, the puddles have dried up from time to time. But enough of these metaphors.

Here’s a list of the most creative things I’ve done in the past year that I can think of right now at 12:57 a.m. off the top of my head:

  1. Moved my guitar from the couch to the corner of my living room because Nick never puts shit back where it belongs.
  2. Created a photo book on Snapfish of our trip to the Bahamas last June (woo wee).
  3. Painted my nails an outlandish color – does this count?
  4. Fashioned individualized birthday cards using blank cards I purchased from JoAnn Fabrics, because I’m too cheap to pay $3.50 for one damn Hallmark card.
  5. Made two necklaces and one bracelet.
  6. Painted flowers on my glass salt and pepper grinders using nail polish.
  7. Borrowed a friend’s woodworking shop to make Nick’s Christmas present: a pin travel map.
  8. Wrote letters to two penpals.
  9. Photographed our hike through Olympic National Park.
  10. (Barely) Started writing my novel.
  11. Cooked. A lot. Which I really do find creative and enjoy immensely.
  12. Attended a coworker’s gallery opening of her beautiful photography.
  13. Followed the instructions on my first MakersKit to make essential oil bathroom spray, bath balls, and a candle. (My Christmas present from Nick, who clearly noticed I’ve been starved of creativity… bless him.)

It’s 1:08 a.m. I allotted myself 10 minutes and, even though I racked my brain for all possible projects, I struggled to write the list above. As our president would say, “SAD!”

This is not acceptable.

 

One of my dear penpals – who also must have sensed my struggle from 3,000 miles away – sent me “Big Magic” by Elizabeth Gilbert for Christmas.

I’m only on page 61, but Gilbert has made me recognize and accept the absurdly short list above, and other areas where my creativity has been lacking. My short bio on this blog has included this paragraph for the past couple of years:

“I am always going, going, going (and talking, talking, talking). There’s something wrong when my mind isn’t whirring with new poems to write, blog posts to compose or tweets to tweet. It’s even weirder when I’m quiet. Trust me.”

Over the past two years I’ve only written two or three poems, two or three blog posts, and a mere handful of tweets.

And that’s just not acceptable.

Emily’s real-life ‘adulting’ in 2015

I moved out of my parents’ house last January after my college graduation in December. I didn’t write much in 2015 (sorry, 14-year-old self), but you’ll remember this post about my breakdown in Walmart, and perhaps this post from September, where I offered a glimpse into what the hell I’d been up to.

I’ve been busy. And, as my ex boyfriend’s dad told me in November, “This has been quite a year for you.”

He’s right. But he doesn’t know the half of it.

Here are 15 things I learned in 2015 as a first-time, real-life, full-fledged, compound-modifier-loving adult.

I realize that we’re almost into February, but hey, better late than never.

1.) That beeping sound your carbon monoxide detector is making? Take it seriously.

You’re not in your father’s house anymore, meaning the detector probably doesn’t just need new batteries.

2.) Enjoying a week’s vacation and getting paid for it is one of life’s most wonderful things.

Especially when you’re cavorting around Europe and haven’t a care in the world.

Screenshot 2016-01-23 01.07.32.png

3.) Beware of Friday the 13th

While I watched snow float to the ground on Friday, Nov. 13, and marveled at the world’s silence, my parents were having the worst night of their lives. It involved a vehicle and an overexcited yellow lab puppy. I’ll never forget my father’s voice wavering on the phone and hearing his sobs.

We managed to surprise him over Thanksgiving with another little bundle of love that is growing by the minute, chewing sneakers, and having accidents in the house.

We know he loves her.

4.) Things from college can come back to haunt you.

Someday I’ll talk about this.

5.) Your heroes and mentors are capable of disappointing you.

But that disappointment only makes you stronger.

6.) Your alcohol tolerance level will drop once you’re done with college. Be careful when you drink double IPAs at work events.

I swear I’ve never acted like a complete imbecile, but I do take advantage of the free drink when I can get it.

7.) That/those relationship(s) you had in college? They might not make it. And that’s perfectly okay.

Moving on while the other stays behind only works in a relationship when you really really want it to. If you can’t picture yourself going to college parties and waking up hungover in a beer-soaked house nearly a year after you’ve graduated, you’ve moved on in more ways than one.

8.) The importance of hobbies.

They teach you this in high school, but they don’t in college. I started taking guitar lessons. In fact, I have one in a couple days. I need to start practicing.

9.) The definition of insanity.

Every boyfriend I’ve ever had has been, like me, the youngest child in the family. I dated the same people over and over again and each time I expected things to be different.

This time is different. His name is Nick. He’s 23. He has a younger sister (six years my junior). He’s an engineer. We think differently; we do different things; we have different hobbies… and yet it just works. I poke fun at him like the little sister I’ve always been. He teases me and drives me crazy. It’s perfect.

10.) Love is love.

I’ll never forget it when my ex boyfriend’s new girlfriend’s mother (confusing, I know, and the reason I met her is a long, stupid story), said something like “I can’t believe they allow that in the army. I’m Catholic and I just don’t agree with it” to me as she shook my hand back in 2013. She was referring to a graduate from a neighboring college’s Army ROTC program who’d been announced at the 2013 military ball with her wife. Her wife.

I remember smiling uncontrollably when they’d be announced. She must have scowled.

When my ex and I walked away from her, I turned to him and said, “Seriously? This is the family you chose?”

I’m proud of myself for saying that to him. And I’m proud of my parents for instilling an indifference in our family toward sexual orientation so that I can enjoy the company of my friends and loved ones without being worried about which gender they enjoy sleeping with. Because, guess what? It doesn’t fucking matter.

11.) You’ll never forget your first car.

My 2000 Volkswagen New Beetle, fondly referred to as “Bubbles,” popped in October when the mechanic listed the repairs she needed in order to pass inspection. Because it wasn’t practical to keep her, I traded her in for a little black Hyundai Elantra GT. Her name is Pippa.

And yes, I cried when Bubbles was lifted onto the flatbed and sobbed even harder when she disappeared around the corner. Then I got in my new car, pushed the START/STOP engine button, opened the panoramic sunroof, hooked my work phone up to the car’s bluetooth for music, used the backup camera to back out of my spot and drove on with my life.

Screenshot 2016-01-23 01.07.03.png

12.) Take risks. Take risks. Take risks.

Kiss the guy who keeps looking at you from across the room at the party.

Book that plane ticket and travel to Europe by yourself.

Make the speech that people will remember.

As Marilyn Monroe said, “I’d rather be absolutely ridiculous than absolutely boring.”

Be ridiculous. 

13.) You’ll have bad days at work where you want to tear your hair out, but the good days make it all worth it.

Eh. Not much more to blow out on this one.

14.) Write letters and thank-you notes. Send a gift to someone randomly.

If there’s anything I’ve learned about living on my own, it’s that receiving mail that isn’t a bill usually makes my entire day. I sent a few Christmas cards over the holidays, wrote a few letters to some pen pals that I’d been neglecting, and sent my brother Adam a few “housewarming” gifts when he moved into his apartment back in the fall. I know it makes me feel good, why not spread the love?

15.) To be a generic twentysomething, travel and do fun stuff.

Winery visits on a Saturday morning? YES! Taking a class at the Culinary Institute of America? Sign me up! A weekend trip to Ocean City, Maryland? Sounds like a blast! While making my student loan payments and rent are priorities, I’ve learned to stop blanching at the price tags attached to experiences.

Screenshot 2016-01-23 01.06.06.png

 

Cheap jewelry and women’s underwear: a meltdown

I had a meltdown in Walmart about a month ago.

I’d grabbed my Suave Sweet Pea and Violet body wash, pack of men’s razors, perused the small appliance aisle, picked up a few vanilla-scented votives and successfully located my mother near the grocery section so I could place my items in her cart. When I realized I’d forgotten to pick up a pair of gloves, I took off and expected my mom to follow me.

Little girl’s. Little boy’s. Handbags. Scarves. Cheap jewelry. Women’s underwear.

Little girl’s. Little boy’s. Handbags. Scarves. Cheap jewelry. Women’s underwear.

Little girl’s. Little boy’s. Handbags. Scarves. Cheap jewelry. Women’s underwear.

Little girl’s. Little boy’s. Handbags. Scarves. Cheap jewelry. Women’s underwear.

Little girl’s. Little boy’s. Handbags. Scarves. Cheap jewelry. Women’s underwear.

I saw the same Walmart associates again and again. They stared at me –– me, in my tie-dye pants, moccasin-style boots, bright green Michelin-man coat and the mess of colors on my hat, complete with ear flaps –– every time.

Little girl’s. Little boy’s. Handbags. Scarves. Cheap jewelry. Women’s underwear.

No gloves. No mom. No answer on her phone. No matches for my candles.

Nobody to come home to every night. Nobody to ask me, “Did you have a good day?” Nobody to eat dinner with. No dogs, thus no tails wagging. No reason to go home. No home.

I found scarves for $4.99 and an array of sports watches for $10, but no gloves.

The good news is, I, breathless, found Mom in the coffee aisle, lightyears away from the little girl’s, little boy’s, handbags, scarves, cheap jewelry and women’s underwear sections.

When I nearly started crying at the sight of her, she calmed me down. She understood that Walmart, though gargantuan, wasn’t entirely to blame.

She slept on the couch in my living room for one night before leaving me be.

Letting me be.