Things needed doing
It was the first time I'd ventured out of the house since I'd gotten the news, the first time I'd managed to pull myself together enough to brave going out into public. Shock has a way of making you wanting to draw away from the world, to tuck your nose under your tail and shut your eyes until the storm passes—until you begin to suspect that the next time you open your eyes, the world you see isn't going to be the topsy-turvy one that kicked you in the gut a few minutes ago.
I put myself together carefully; after all, I had no idea who was going to see me. I made my socks match and clasped my hair into a neat twist. My shirt was clean, my jeans passably so, and about half a minute's soft pressure from a hot, wet washcloth made the circles under my eyes a little less noticeable.
I hooked my cell phone onto my pocket and made sure to turn it on. After all, Mom might try to reach me while I was out. I made sure the cats had food and that the shopping list was in my pocket. With my keys in one hand and my wallet in the other, I locked the door behind me and got into my car.
At which point, I broke down. For something like the fifteenth time that day. For no reason. For every reason. Because the anger, the frustration, the shock, the sadness, they all came out in their periodic geyser rush.
They went away as swiftly as they came. I pushed the button for the garage door opener and sat still, vacant, in my car. I hooked my fingers around the sides of the steering wheel. The tear-tracks were still damp, and I rubbed my thumbs through them, idly smudging their straight lines into something more indefinite.
With a deep breath, I started the car and drove to the grocery store. Things needed doing, and I had to do them.
I walked in, picked up a basket, and then stared blankly at the aisles. I opened up my Visor and realized that I hadn't even organized my list, something that would ordinarily annoy me to distraction. It was a short list, though; it should have taken me ten minutes at the most.
I should have stood there for a moment and organized my list. Instead, I just wanted to walk. So I took the first item on the list and went to its aisle, and so on, crisscrossing aisles and even parts of the store. It wasn't that I cared—I did, and I knew that I was wasting a lot of time in my disorganization—but somehow, in the grand scheme of current events, it didn't matter a damn.
It was the pickles that did it for me, those noxious little sour green things that Dad and Jeff love so much, and that I honestly can't stand. For all that reality mattered, they might as well have leaped off the shelf and just slammed into my gut.
It hurt. I wondered how Dad was doing, in that hospital in another state. I wondered how Mom was doing. I didn't have the courage to unhook the cell phone from my belt, to call them up and ask. But I had enough to stare back at the jars and admit that it wasn't my seeing them that hurt me; it was my memories (tangentially-connected though they were) that hurt.
I checked my list; all done but the tortillas. I walked down the bread-and-condiments aisle, letting myself drift over names and descriptions. Letting myself calm down a bit.
He came up behind me, silent, smiling, shepherding two young children. His eyes were deep black against white, his skin an ambient dark brown glow behind a navy polo shirt. He winked at me and said, "You know, the best place to meet a woman is in the supermarket. Meet someone there, and you know right off the bat that she can cook, and that's half the battle right there."
He grinned, and the laughter came out of me with that same unexpected geyser rush. I raised my left hand and said slyly, "Well, I guess I'd better tell my husband that." He laughed, and convinced his sons that they didn't need to be playing in the salad dressing, and I wandered off in a half-hearted attempt to find the tortillas.
It wasn't one of those magical chance encounters that made everything all right, but it at least made me feel like I had some connection with the human race again. Even if it was just in the grocery store, with some stranger I wouldn't know if I met him again.
We have to start somewhere, I suppose.