Home from a long day of work, you pass your roommates quietly and retreat to your room without of word. They greet you, but all you can do is nod in their direction. Your room, your solitude, your sanctuary; that’s where you want to be. That’s what you’ve been fantasizing about all day. There, you push aside the clutter from your bed. Outfits you decided against, books you have read and reread, the bath towel you forgot to hang, and fall face-first into your mattress. You’re dead tired, and you can feel it in your bones. Your workday was especially cruel and finally in bed, you try to push the frustration out of your mind.
Customer complaint after customer complaint, and your manager nowhere to be found you, as the assistant manager, smiled and validated their frustrations, apologized profusely, and committed to remedying the situation as soon as possible. The customers felt listened to and left with hope that their orders will be fixed. You sighed an exasperated sigh as the crowd in the store thinned out. With the store finally empty, you retreated to the back room once your manager resurfaced. Your resentment of him grows with every day.
Once in the safety of the back room, you cried. You tried to be as quiet as possible, but the overwhelming nature of the work day had caught up to you. Unbeknownst to him, the optometrist entered the back room to search for contact lenses, and found you curled up, on the floor. Meek, mild mannered, and unsure of how to proceed, he cautiously asked if you were okay. You swore up and down that you were fine, but he knew that you were lying. But with his final patient waiting in his office, he grabbed the contact lenses, mumbled something about checking on your later, and shut the door behind him. You wiped your tears, you checked your eye makeup in your pocket mirror, and you went back to the storefront.
Your manager left after making some excuse about picking up his daughter. You knew he only cared for her on weekends, but you allowed him to hold on to his lie. You’re too tired to care.
You reached out to a friend via text message, wanting to feel some level of normalcy. You talked about your depression with him and felt understood for the first time in a long time. You were even able to joke after awhile. He sent you a list of songs to listen to on the drive home and you thanked him for it.
At that moment, a woman entered the shop. She told you she was there you pick up glasses. You asked for her last name, and when she told you, you responded with her first. She was taken aback by your memory and the recognition of the name made her smile. As you retrieved her glasses, she mentioned having short term memory loss.
“I might not remember this in ten minutes,” she said, “but there’s a good chance I will remember you next month when I least expect it.”
You mentioned The Ex’s terrible short term memory, but she quickly interjected. She did not have a typical case of memory loss. She admitted to you that she had a brain tumor. Doctors had tried operating on it, able to remove three percent of the growth. But in the time since the surgery, 1.5% returned. She continued; she seemed to feel comfortable around you. She explained the tumor was wrapped around her optic nerve, and that it will eventually cause blindness. This was in addition to the macular degeneration that her ophthalmologist diagnosed her the month prior.
Your laconic show of sympathy was borne of shock; for a brief moment as you remembered your uncle’s inoperable brain tumor six years ago. You fought the lump your throat fiercely.
“If the tumor doesn’t blind me, the disease will!” She let out a laugh and you were shocked by her candor. She admitted to being nearly blind in her left eye.
When she tried on her glasses, she looked elated, and she was able to see more clearly than she had in months. That’s when she hugged you. You were blindsided by the show of affection; she hugged you just for being there. She repeated herself. “I might not remember this in then minutes, but there’s a good chance I’ll remember it next month.”
You prayed that she would see next month.
Before leaving, the woman spoke of hope, living each day to the fullest, and staying in the moment, focused on the here and now because “tomorrow is not a guarantee.” She thanked you again and left the storefront.
For the second time during you work day, you cried, sobbing into your hands and hiding behind the cash register. You were touched and you didn’t know how to not only process your feelings, but proceed with your day. For a moment, you felt guilty having been so upset earlier in the day. You spend so much of your day angry.
You closed the store, you drove home, and you listened to the songs your friend sent you.
In bed, you send a text message to your friend and thank him again for the music. You succumb to your sleepiness, still in your work clothes, with your legs hanging off the edge of the bed.
You don’t dream.