Summer is moving forward.
The 4th of July has come and gone. I went home and played with my niece, met my sister’s boyfriend, and lost at a couple of board games. There were delicious ribs, which I ate ravenously, and even a few fireworks exploding distantly in the pale, glowing sky above the city. I came back to my apartment full of food and family.
The time since then has been an endless cycle of Work Netflix Sleep, repeated like some kind of ITunes Playlist from hell. Occasionally I’ll try to get out and do something different. I’ll drive slowly past Ross and think about maybe getting a new pair of shoes for work (my old ones are quickly getting worn through), or I’ll promise myself during the day that I’ll spend the evening at the library, but by five thirty I’m tired. I go to the grocery store if I have to, get my usual assortment of salad fixins, pickles and pudding cups, and go home, where I try not to fall asleep until at least ten.
Sometimes I shower. The days that I do, I feel very accomplished and I have a cocky little strut in my step. You can’t get me down, world, because there aren’t spiders living in my hair anymore! Hear that, society? You are looking at a vaguely grease-free individual. Impressed yet?
So yeah, I guess you could say that I’m in a bit of a funk. Not depression, certainly not. I enjoy my evenings browsing Netflix, and work isn’t too rough. Just a little bit of a grayish rut. These things happen, and I’m not too concerned about it.
Tuesday was a difficult day in the office, and during my lunch hour I realized that the shower drain was clogged again and we were out of Draino. We didn’t have any real food in the house. I ate a stale heel of bread and some croutons and resolved to go shopping that evening. The afternoon was tougher than the morning, and by the time I left work (half an hour late, after I had managed to screw up a project) I was virtually crushed beneath the weight of a cartoonish storm cloud hovering over my head. I drove to WinCo with Nine Inch Nails blaring out the windows of my grandma’s Camry and did my shopping quietly, barely looking up as I plucked lettuce and cucumbers and a new loaf of bread off the shelves. It was because of this tunnel-vision that I met the woman.
Turning a corner, my cart suddenly plowed into another one with an ear-splitting crash that caused the entire Frozen Foods section to perk up and stare. My heart dropped into my stomach.
“Oh, geez, I’m so sorry,” I sputtered. “Is anything broken? I can pay for anything that I broke.”
The woman on the other end of the cart was large, with a billowing belly covered by a tie-dye T-shirt and a mane of frizzy brown hair that floated around her person. She had large glasses perched on a strangely sharp nose. Her cart was filled with flowers – hanging baskets, cucumber plants, orange geraniums, and pansies. To the side was a bag of Doritos.
I waited for the inevitable tirade.
“Oh, my God,” she said. “How do you get your hair so smooth?”
She was smiling, her mouth open, inspecting my greasy post-work tangles.
“And don’t tell me it’s natural,” she continued. “I’ll just die if it’s natural. All these women with beautiful hair, and it’s always ‘it’s natural!’, but my hair is natural and it sure don’t look smooth and pretty.”
“I’m…it’s natural,” I said apologetically. The woman clapped a hand to her face and wailed.
“Oh, Jeezus, I told you not to tell me that.”
“Um, so I’m really sorry about running into your cart,” I said. For some reason I felt the compulsion to drive the conversation back to my mistake, as if she hadn’t noticed yet. I felt guilty, letting her talk about anything besides how furious she must be with me. “I can pay for anything that’s broken. Is…uh…is anything-”
“Oh, relax, honey. Nothing’s broken. I got chips and flowers. If the chips get chipped, it’s okay. The flowers will keep growing. Here – want a flower?”
Reaching down, she plucked a sweet orange ball of petals from its little cardboard box. I backed away.
“Oh, no no no, no, I couldn’t. That’s your flower.”
“Don’t be silly. You need to put a flower in your hair, so everyone notices how pretty it is. Here.”
I took the flower. The woman nodded encouragingly as I tucked it behind my ear, and tugged at her tie-dye shirt.
“There,” she said. “Now, you have a good night.”
“Er, thanks for the flower!” I said, as she maneuvered her cart around mine.
“No problem,” she said. “Sometimes people just need to have a flower.”
She waddled away, leaning heavily on her cart and nodding at the bemused patrons of the Frozen Food sections as she passed.
That night, I went home, cooked a healthy dinner, and talked to my big brother for several hours online. I removed the clog in the shower and washed my hair twice. Afterwards, I applied a serum that I bought two years ago (on Laura’s recommendation) that I’ve only used once since. The label says it’s supposed to reduce frizz and flyaways. I never felt more than a fleeting need for it, but it suddenly felt frivolous not to use it. I had it. I had the thirty seconds that it took to slap it onto my head and moosh it around a bit. Why not? I dried my hair with a hair dryer and put on a bit of moisturizer (which I also never use).
When I went in to brush my teeth, I saw the orange flower, limp and drowned in the collected bathwater. I had forgotten to remove it when I went to shower. Shreds of its petals were clinging to the walls and floor of the tub, and while brushing my hair, I found a bit of orange behind my ear.
Two days later, and I keep finding little shreds of flower in the house.