Ghost

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My Life Outside of Walmart

It started in one of the Walmart checkout lines.

After picking out what we planned to purchase, my friend Helen had gone straight for the first checkout line she could find. At first I joined her. There were only two people in front of us. However, with just  one glance I could see the man in front of us had way more than the number of items this “express” lane was limited to.

Just two lanes down there was a smaller line comprised of one woman and two Hispanic males.

I walked over to that lane, but the obstinate Helen decided she didn’t want to walk the ten feet it took to get to the new lane. When I got into the new lane, one of the men in front of me turned and smiled. I smiled back, and thought nothing of it.

“Helen!” I shouted, not really considering if this would embarrass my friend or not… although in hindsight it probably did. “This line has less items! Get over here!”

She walked over, and as she did the man who had smiled earlier decided to start up a conversation with me. It was then I noticed something off about his smile. It wasn’t a psycho serial killer smile, but it was definitely more than just a neighborly small talk smile.

This man looked to be in his lower forties and had his shiny black hair slicked back. He didn’t step closer to me when he talked. He just stayed by the checkout counter, so there was a good distance between us.

“I saw you looking at something…” he said, and continued speaking. However, after that first phrase I couldn’t really understand what he was saying. His accent was very thick.

“I’m sorry, what?”

I guess speaking gave him permission to take a couple steps closer. I’m still not entirely sure what he said, but it was something along the lines of, “I saw you looking at something earlier. If you have any questions you can always ask me.”

This didn’t make much sense, so I just did a nod, smile and laugh number.

Feeling totally awkward, I turned my back to him and looked at Helen. She was completely oblivious to the exchange. Her hands and eyes were busy digging through the huge pile of movies in Walmart’s five-dollar movie bin.

“Find anything good?” I asked, hoping the man behind me got the message that I wasn’t interested in talking to him.

“Well there’s this,” she said, looking up at me. Clutched in her right hand was Anastasia. “Think I should get it?”

“It is a good movie,” I replied. I’ll be truthful, I don’t remember if she got it or not. My gut tells me she did, but I could be making that up.

When I turned back to the line, just to see if it had moved along, the smiling man’s friend was now getting checked out. The smiling man was still… well… smiling at me.

“What’s your name?” he asked.

Do I give him my name? I feel like giving my name to strangers is a no no… but, it couldn’t hurt to give him my nickname, right?

“Maddi,” I said.

“What?” he said.

“Maddi,” I said.

“What?” he said.

“Maddi,” I said.

“Maurice?” he said.

“Yes.”           

He nodded his appreciation for my name.

If he wanted to think my name was Maurice then all power to him. As kind as I wanted to be, there were only so many times and ways I could articulate my name to him. If we’d actually had some kind of real conversation and if I hadn’t been getting strange vibes from him I might have taken the time to clear up the misunderstanding. But right now he was just some guy in the checkout line of Walmart. I probably wouldn’t be seeing him again.

“My name is Victor,” he said, pronouncing the end of his name like “tore.”

“Victor?”

He nodded. “Victor Manuel. But you may call me Victor. Or you may call me Manuel.”

It was definitely an interesting introduction. I could only return his nod and say, “oh.”

Thankfully it was his turn to check out, and soon he was leaving and it was my turn to place my items on the counter.

“Good bye,” Victor Manuel said with a wave.

“Bye,” I said, giving my best polite smile.

Once I was sure he was gone I explained what had just happened to Helen. We were still talking about it once we had gathered our bags and were heading for the entrance.

“Bye ladies.” A voice came from next to us, and I turned. Victor Manuel and his friend were standing and talking next to the restrooms.

“Bye,” I said, smiling once more.

Once at my car, we piled our wares into my trunk. Helen took the cart and walked it over to the cart return. As I shut the trunk door, I noticed Victor Manuel and his friend walking past us. We made eye contact so I waved.

“Have a nice night!” I said as cheerfully as possible. Hopefully this would be our last encounter and Helen and I could go grab some dinner.

This didn’t seem like it was the case though, as soon as the words left my mouth Victor Manuel began to walk toward my car.

I jumped into my driver’s seat as quickly as I could. Helen opened the passenger side door.

"Get in, get in,” I said frantically, and as soon as her door was shut I locked the doors.

Victor Manuel did not seem to get that I was fleeing his presence. A stranger approaching a girl in a dark parking lot? I had no clue what to expect, but I’d heard enough horror stories that I was ready to floor it out of there if anything even pretended to happen.

He walked over to my window. I planned on just opening my window a crack so we could talk, but of course my stupid Toyota had other plans.

Toyota has so kindly made it so when you just tap the driver’s side window button the window automatically rolls completely down. This is wonderful when you’re driving on the road, and you don’t want to take your hands off the steering wheel for very long. This is not so wonderful when a strange man is approaching your car.

“Hi,” I said, doing my best not to appear alarmed that my clever window plan had failed.

“I came to give you my number,” he said.

I took the tiny folded white paper out of his hand out of reflex.

“Thank you,” I said. I really hadn’t been sure what to say, but that’s what came out.

“You’re so nice,” he added.

“OK. Thanks. Have a nice night,” I said. Then my window rolled up and Victor Manuel left my life for the last time.

Helen immediately burst out laughing. I had to laugh too. The situation felt absurd.

It wasn’t until later, when we arrived at Subway, our dinner destination, that I opened the piece of paper.

It read, “Manuel,” in curly script with a phone number underneath his name and the words, “call me.”

“My life,” I said.

Helen looked at me curiously.

“When I imagined a guy giving me a number for the first time I expected I’d be out at a restaurant. It would be evening, and the lights would be dimmed to create ‘atmosphere’. I’d just be there with a bunch of my girl friends. The cute and funny waiter and I would hit it off, cracking jokes every time he came to refill our water, deliver our dishes, and bring us a couple of extra napkins. Then at the end of the dinner, when he came back with the checks and our credit cards, he would tell us to have a good night, setting my card in front of me last. Once I opened the little folder to take my card out I’d notice a note on the receipt, including the number of the cute waiter.
“But no. The first time I got a number was in a Walmart parking lot from a strange man in his forties who I couldn’t even fully communicate with. This is my life.”

(Source: everydayadventurosity)

D is for Divorce

When I first tell people that my parents are divorced they always apologize. For some reason I can’t just accept their “I’m sorry”; I have to tell them that it wasn’t that bad. My parents are both happy people now. They’re better. I’m better. Somewhere along all of this explanation, I start to fear they might think I’m dipping into overcompensation or exaggeration. After these moments are over I have to wonder if I try so hard to convince them that divorce isn’t so bad because I’m still trying so hard to convince myself. And yet, I still do it every time I hear the startled
“Oh, I’m sorry.

I barely remember moments with both of my parents before they divorced. It’s funny how the mind chooses to hold some memories close and let other ones fall away. It’s even funnier that most of the time it’s the good memories that get lost, and the painful ones that leave their searing mark. So in this comical state of things I remember the fights, the heated whispering as low as the lighting while I tried to fall asleep, and the nightmares that greeted me after I did.

The moment I remember most is as vivid as those nightmares. I’m somehow in my parents’ room. I don’t remember how I got to be there, just that I am. The cover on the bed is made harsh with threaded, elaborately flowered designs that I’ve traced over and over again with my pointer finger. I’m propped up on a couple of pillows, one tilted horizontally and the other vertical to create some type of comfy cross for me to disappear into. The giant, clunky, black TV with brown buttons tosses my reflection back at me from where it sits on the dresser. In it I can see my dad on my left and my mom on my right. Although at this age I’m still having trouble with directions, and so I just take comfort in the fact that my family is surrounding me, something they rarely do in my memories. 

“We’re going to read a book,” my mom smiles at me. I feel something flutter in my stomach and it’s hard to force the corners of mouth down. Reading is my favorite activity. The floppy front cover is separated from the back and pictures are revealed.

“This book is called Dinosaurs Divorce.” I think it was my mom who said this, but either way I distinctly remember the title being read allowed. As we flip through the pages it starts to become clear to me why my parents are reading this to me. They’re teaching me some new concept. Divorce. Knowing their intentions I try my best to soak in all of the information.

The stories all sound really interesting. Some of them highlighting what it’s like for a dinosaur to have their parents live in two separate houses, and how lucky they are to experience two Christmases. Every now and then light flares off of the shiny pages from the ceiling fan above, and I tilt the book. Just as my hands start to tire from holding up the book so my mom can read each page out loud to me, the book is finished.

“How do you feel?” someone asks, and I find the question a little strange. How do I feel? Should this book and its new concept have made me feel any different?

“Do you understand what Divorce is?” I know it’s my mom who says this, and I nod eagerly. I know how to read and comprehend, and I want them to know it. “Well, that’s what me and your dad are going to go through.”

A certain stillness falls over the room. My parents were probably filled with some kind of nervous anticipation as they watched me closely for a reaction. I felt blank. The moment those words had left her mouth my brain had hit the flush button and all of my feelings had run out. This stillness feels like it lasts forever. It only lasts a few seconds.

As if deciding that the shock has been there long enough, a crevice opens in my mind and ice-cold emotion begins to slink back into my mind, finding its way down my head and coiling around my spine. The images and words I’ve just been shown flash back through my mind, leaving a sour taste on my heavy tongue.

“You and daddy are getting a divorce?” As soon as someone affirms my worst fears, I bolt. Climbing over my dad’s long legs as fast as possible, I slide off of the enormous bed. My feet pound soft and gentle carpet as I look for some escape. If I run fast enough, if I hide well enough, I can leave the word Divorce back where I first saw it. I can unlearn this new concept. I can pretend I don’t comprehend.

There’s a steady flow of tears and shaking sobs as I head for the towel closet. My heart pounds and for a moment I feel like I’m playing hide and seek. That moment is gone when I realize the space under all of the towels is far too small to fit under. So I do the next best thing and fall to the ground, my hand still gripping the painted wooden door to the closet.

Arms wrap around me as my dad sinks to the ground and pulls me into his warm lap. My voice breaks out of my mouth in small bursts with phrases like “you can’t”, and “not fair”, but mostly just “why?” I just want an explanation. I need some kind of compensation for the pain that’s radiating from my body. If I can just understand, maybe it won’t hurt so badly.

My dad pulls me from his shoulder and looks me in the eyes. Although he’ll never be quite so good at dealing with my emotions, he manages to give me this much.


“I’m sorry,” he says.

(Source: everydayadventurosity)

Single Embarrassed Female

Her hand brushed against the light switch, allowing the light to flicker before deciding to turn it off. Then we sat in the dim twinkling light of the Christmas lights which had been strung around the kitchen.

"So." My mom’s eyes found me sitting across the table from her in a rather uncomfortable chair.

"So," I replied, my teeth showing in what I hope appeared to be a smile.

"Did you go on any dates last year?"

"Nope."

"Want me to put out an ad?"

Her question caught me off guard. Wait… what? What mother asks if her daughter wants to be advertised in the paper? Or even online? A brief summary of the ad flashes across my mind’s eye.

SWF, so desperate to find a date that her own mother had to buy her a section in the classifieds.

It would probably end up right next to someone trying to sell their dog or a piece of furniture.

"No," I answer, trying not to sound too shell-shocked.

"Why not?"

"I’m not really interested in that right now," I say hoping she’ll get the real message I’m sending out: That would be really really really extra embarrassing. Don’t ever ask that again. "I’m really busy at school."

"Oh. Well, at least you attend a lot of parties."

"Actually I don’t," I reply faster than I want to.

She’s already on the next topic though, as if she didn’t just volunteer to auction me off. Who knows, maybe the next time I get a chance to talk she’ll be trying to sell me on Craig’s list. That is after all where she got her dogs. Maybe someone will want a single embarrassed female to sit on their couch.

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