Second semester of freshman year
I arrived back to my dorm-away-from-home to find
both of my roommates absent
away for good without notice
And as terrified as I had been that first semester,
my fear and sorrow now spiked tenfold.
I was ragged returning after the holidays
where I had feasted with friends on familiarity and comfort
my jaw still swollen from the
dental surgery Mother thought best to
save until after the new year’s turning
I dropped my bags on the bed I intended to use
because this new room partner (stranger) was tardy
so I’m calling dibs.
A long string of broken heart moments had led me to
this barren dorm room where once again
I knew no one
I felt so wholly alone.
Tasting the bitterness and misery thick in the back of my throat
I summoned my composure
downed a handful of ibuprofen
and headed to Kroger to fill the tiny communal pantry
wishing I could fill my empty heart as easily.
Walking the too-brightly-lit aisles, my eyes burned and I cried
quiet but steady tears
my mind so tired, I couldn’t make sense
of the varieties of Rice-a-Roni
and I wondered if adulthood would be just
one long series of starting-overs, of losses,
of shallow existing
and in the condiments aisle, I decided
that if that was indeed the case, I wanted no more of it
no more of this seemingly pointless, perpetually-lonely life.
Just then a time-worn little woman scooted up next to my cart—
and I can’t even remember her face now—
this angel wrapped in tweed or maybe polyester,
politely complimented my olive-green crocheted sweater
“You look so pretty in that, honey”
Then she walked away
But I couldn’t move at all
Frozen, I fought hard to gather air in that moment
because—it’s so silly—
somehow those few kind words,
like the cold slap that wakes an infant to his new world,
made me breathe again
snapped me back into living
pricked a hole in the dark to let a little light in
her simple, benevolent words
regarding a broken young woman and a tattered olive-green sweater
directed my courage to restart,
set a hand on my back pushing—keep going
and she saved a life that day in Kroger.
Cover photo by rocknwool.
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