I shrugged my bag higher up on my shoulder and it slipped back down to its niche within a second. The shrug had become reflexive, I knew it wouldn’t help. But much like everything I did now- searching through the darkened folds of my purse for my car keys, clicking my tongue absentmindedly- it just came without thinking. I got a whiff of the stench of french fries wafting across the parking lot and another reflex happened: my stomach tightened in disgust.
I thought back to a time when I actually enjoyed that smell. When some days I couldn’t resist the urge to cross the concrete plain to the drive through and get myself an envelope of salty fried sticks. When I’d lick my fingers in happiness and laugh at the fact that I was destroying my pledge to eat healthy.
Now I looked across the dark, wet vastness at the steam rising from the kitchen vents and wondered what could have driven such a compulsion. Like so many other things in my life that had gone away I couldn’t understand why it was ever there to begin with.
I opened the door to my old jalopy and jammed the key into the ignition, my hand already so cold I couldn’t feel my fingers as they turned the hard metal shape. The engine struggled like an 80 year old cough and I pushed hard on the accelerator. The angry music I’d had on before I started my shift drowned out the sound of the engine as the radio blared on and I snapped the dial off with an angry grab.
I watched the dashboard light up and waited for the heat and the smell of fumes to come through my vents. I wondered how the hell I had gotten here. Another pointless shift ending with another cold night and nothing to move on to but my shitty apartment and the blissful glow of cable tv.
I’d had so many dreams, so many passions, known so many intelligent people who were going to help me make this life something like what I thought it could be. But as the years passed and my life changed less and less I found myself coming to the point where I couldn’t believe in meaning anymore. The point where meaning, like all of the other dreams I gave up, was just another fairy tale.
I shiver in my seat and had to shake of a sob that almost erupted from my throat out of nowhere. I closed my eyes and was embarrassed at the moisture that had cropped up there. I knew better than to allow myself to think of anything other than radio lyrics after finishing the work week. Stupid sentimentality made me weak again.
I snapped the radio back on and turned up the volume trying to drown out the thoughts in my head. The high pitched angry lyrics of Offspring came on and I forced myself to sing along to a song I had loved in high school. Then I shifted the car into drive and sped out of the empty parking lot.