On Wednesday, I found myself running. Not marathon running. Not running from the law, or a rabid dog, or because I was late to something. I ran up to my car, heaved open the door, grabbed a small box from the front seat, and set off again. The doors locked as I crossed the street.
But let’s rewind. Let’s review the sequence of events that brought me to this moment.
In the morning, I had received an email before leaving for work. I didn’t get a job I had so enthusiastically interviewed for, a job I had really wanted. The job? Editor. Editor of a very cool food site. We can imagine I didn’t get it because I am too amazing. But, while I had prepared for this possible outcome, a heaviness immediately settled within me like cold, wet sand.
Later, at work, I kept lifting a hand to my head. The disappointment was difficult to shake. The sand within me swelled and hardened. But I also couldn’t shake my alternate reality, that this is February, that this is the month of love. From my purse I withdrew a small plaid box. I placed it next to me listlessly, and prepared myself to mean all of its contents. I concentrated on smoothing the line between my eyebrows, on softening my expression. I smiled to myself.
For you, wondering, I work at an acupuncture clinic. All are welcome. However, the practice mostly specializes in fertility, which means a high volume of women, of all ages, sizes and temperaments, flush through our office daily. This means I talk about menstrual cycles daily. It means I know when some patients are ovulating. I have always loved working here. But as the years have gone by, I’ve had to slowly accept that it doesn’t really make sense to stay. Romanticism aside, I probably won’t become an acupuncturist in this life. I’m a writer, a painter. What am I doing? I wondered this while pulling a patient’s needles from her head. The editing job, so much more related to my natural talents, was difficult to forget.
As the patient whose needles I pulled emerged sleepily from her room, I remembered the box nearby. I handed over her bill and proceeded to empty the box’s contents on top of it. Pick a valentine! I beamed this, loudly, gestured dramatically, and my heart lifted a little.
Beaded rings. I had made them while marathoning an extra dramatic Japanese drama. The woman gasped and knelt over them. She quickly tried several on, because they are each different.
As the hours progressed, I was amazed to find that all of the women, with their wide range of personalities, had the same, nearly identical reactions. They were all delighted. Instinctively giddy. Some of them couldn’t resist casting second, lingering looks, as if contemplating taking another. It was the sort of moment that made me deeply love being a girl.
And then another surprise. One patient actually pulled a box of valentine chocolates from her purse to give to me! I tried to protest. But, she wouldn’t have it. Further examining them, I found glossy, dark chocolate hearts filled with raspberry and champagne ganache. Heart be still! Coincidentally, it’s a Valentine’s month tradition to eat fancy chocolate. What a delicious relief to cross it off the list. The box of chocolates was like a comforting kiss on the cheek, a reassuring pat on the back. It still makes me so grateful…
I wish I could tell you this was the end of my distinct sense of woe. I wish I could say that I began anew here. February! It’s February, I continued to remind myself. The days before this had been satisfactorily heart-shaped. There were the black tea vanilla cupcakes with a blackberry filling – handed to favorite people in favorite retail shops – day one:
Finally there was what boiled in the pot from the last post. Homemade caramels.
Still, as I drove home that Wednesday afternoon, I couldn’t resist pulling over, to stop at Paper Source. When most people need to relieve sorrow, they buy themselves a drink. When I am out of spirits, I buy myself a pricey sheet of wrapping paper. Half an hour later, I emerged with a carefully rolled up sheet underneath my arm, briefly soaking in my obscure sense of justice. And then, the remaining shadows in my heart flooded out to confront me.
I thought of everything all at once. I thought of my failures, mostly. How far away my dreams seemed. I thought of all the art I’m not making, the words I’m not writing. I thought of recent advice I’ve received, to go back to school and “learn computers.” High school emo-Elisa was rebuilding herself rapidly, worrisomely, was seconds away from eating me whole, when suddenly my eyes spied a nearby tea shop.
Inside, a small hum of customers gathered, all sitting down. The counter was free, and an extended hand was gesturing at me, holding a shot glass of hot tea. The outstretched arm had a heart-shaped tattoo on it, and a familiar feeling fluttered within me. I never caught her name, but within minutes, the tea barista and I discovered we were the same person. It was like the Discover card commercials, where the actors talk like each other, and answer their own questions. So this girl and I shared our convictions about the trump cards that are love and friendship.
I was overwhelmed. I slammed my Paper Source purchase on the counter, and asked her to wait for me. My car was several blocks away. Outside, I started to jog. I started to run. A deluge of high school students, recently released from school, began to stream against me. I weaved between dozens of them and kept my bobbing pace. What am I doing? I asked myself wearily. Why is this so important? More truths started to rise. I thought of the occasional expressions on faces of people who had felt nothing for the valentines I handed them. Strangers who couldn’t appreciate the out-of-context tomfoolery. And why didn’t they choose me? My mind circled back to the lost job opportunity. What about me could they not have employed? Should I be a nurse instead? A computer engineer? Also, would my Paper Source purchase still be at the counter when I returned?
Slamming the car door and clutching the box, I finally shook it all off. Running again, I experienced a release.
Maybe it doesn’t make sense. Maybe the realities of this world are immovable. Maybe my purpose here is a slight one, one one-hundredth of a dot on the grand scale of human existence. But I must move on, believing in love. I must move on, loving this life. In my hand, within the box, the rings shook, rattled, they rolled.
Back in the tea shop, the girl and her co-worker again mirrored the reactions of the patients from the clinic. The tea girl brewed me an oolong on the house. I left the shop, believing in love.