An Evening Drive

Soon after my parents’ car, the fancier one, rolled out of the garage, I stuffed a twenty and some ones into my coat pocket and departed into the darkness.

After parking like a piece of shit at the local plaza’s parking lot, I went to Rite Aid, which was already closed.  I was shocked and offended by this, but after walking past several other stores, it seemed like a common practice on an 8 pm Saturday.  So I surveyed my options: Barnes and Noble (a bit above tonight’s budget), Bath and Body Works…I decided to try a store I never braved before, One World Goods.

I thought I would be self-conscious about it, but while walking to One World Goods, I felt rather good — even proud — of my solitude.  Maybe it was because there weren’t too many people, and none that I knew.  Or maybe I’m finally getting over some young phobia.

One World Goods was neat.  I appreciated the storewoman, who did not accost me when I entered the store, leaving me in peace as I marveled at the cute stuff.  The products got progressively tackier the farther back I moved into the store, but overall it was a nice place to find gifts.  I rapidly texted my friend for Secret Santa advice while searching the hand-weaved scarves and -carved spoons.  I sampled some coffee I didn’t like.  Ultimately, nothing seemed right for my Secret Santa assignment, but I bought a purple beeswax candle, because I worried about looking suspicious.

I left Bath and Body Works after two seconds when I saw the price sticker for a tiny bottle of lotion.  At Michael’s I stocked up on $5 gifts for my friends.  In the manga book section, I laughed out loud at Draw Shoujo Manga (blissfully, the lady nearby pretended not to notice), and it took all of my willpower to not buy it for my male otaku friend.  I bought the general manga book instead.

At the cash register, I frantically groped through my pockets as the cashier totaled up my purchases and announced, “$20.19.  Oh, wait–” a few clacks on the register “–$19.54”

“Oh, thank god,” I said, and she laughed.  After handing her my sole twenty, I thought how close I was to a totally embarrassing crisis.  Sales really are miracles!

Upon returning to my car with literally 50 cents on me, I realized how gravely I underestimated my splurge, and I hadn’t even bought dinner yet.  Luckily, my mom kept a generous supply of coins in the car’s cupholder.  I drove to Wendy’s and got food from a drive-thru for the first time.   I asked the lady on the speaker to wait as I collected my change and searched the menu, but like an idiot, I took an atrociously long time.  When her grouchy voice asked, “Hellooo?”, I surrendered and bought the flashiest thing on the menu: the $4 combo.  I was more embarrassed and sorry that I hadn’t noticed a car pulled up behind me.

Everything else went smoothly enough, except that the lady who handed me my bag glanced at my car’s dangerous angle toward the building’s side.  Finally, with my delicious food, I drove home, only getting beeped at once and struggling significantly with all the headlight settings.

I have a tendency to view life moments in hindsight while I am living in them.  That evening, I stared at the multicolored orbs of lights diffracted by the raindrops on the windshield and had the distinct sense that I would never be this dumb, this naive, this new to ordinary adult tasks ever again.  It was kind of exciting, and nice too.

-M.L. 

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