Commuter Woes

The left turn into the office was literally the worst. At 8 a.m. the sun was barreling down the four lane highway, doing its best to blind any commuter trying to make it east on a Monday morning. Nothing short of blacked-out sunglasses and tinted windows could prevent Kara’s retinas from what would certainly be permanent scarring. I’ll be seeing spots for hours, she thought. She knew, at least, this time it was her fault. She’d left her sunglasses on the kitchen counter, next to her neatly packed lunch, and had not realized until ten minutes away from home she’d actually brought the bag of items that were supposed to go the recycling bin. Fucking Mondays.

It wasn’t all bad. She’d had an amazing weekend with her boyfriend of a whopping four weeks. Not that she called him boyfriend to his face. Labels were something of the past. Kara was a modern woman, with her own goals and aspirations, none of them hinged on getting attached to another human being. Dependence was for a housewife from the ’50s. As far as she was concerned Jacob served his purpose and until such time she determined the purpose of his relation to her changed, that was enough. A semi truck thundered by.

In order to turn into her office parking lot she had to drive past a stoplight and wait for the traffic of the west-goers to diminish just enough so that she could goose her Nissan Juke across the median, two lanes of asphalt and safely into the shared space in front of the fabric store where she served as co-manager. The gap between cars widened and she tapped the pedal on the right as the intro to Michael Jackson’s Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough blared through the speakers.

She pulled into her favorite spot, the required twenty-two spaces away from the front entrance. Customers always had priority. Even on a Monday, the slowest day of the week. Business was so slow, before she was manager, Kara and her co-workers would play games in the aisles with clearance merchandise. Her favorite was bowling over the ghost statues with plastic skulls left over from Halloween. Such activities were frowned upon in her new role. Still, she let the other girls have their fun.

Tiffany’s car was already there, causing Kara’s heart rate to boost. God! I hate being late! She jumped out of the car, bag of recycling in hand. Quick-stepping across the parking lot she tossed her non-lunch into the garbage can just outside the store entrance and stopped in front of the sliding doors that led into the store. They couldn’t use the back entrance anymore since Heather had broken her key in the door lock last week. Kara had tried to get a locksmith out, but that needed district manager approval for the expense, and he was on vacation in Vancouver. Because, you know, that’s where most people go on vacation.

Kara couldn’t see in, but waited a few moments for Tiffany to open the door. Glancing at her watch, then tapping her foot, she got impatient and fumbled for her keys in her purse. Lipstick, an extra tampon, wallet, some spare change….no keys. Shit. In her mind she retraced her steps and turned to look into the parking lot. Maybe she’d dropped them on the way to the door? Then she looked at the garbage can.

The doors slid open and Tiffany stepped out to find the lid of the garbage can on the ground and Kara headfirst in the muck leftover from the weekend. “Aha!” came a muffled exclamation of victory. She tumbled back up, holding her keys high in her right hand, “Gotcha!” Tiffany looked on, eyes wide. A straw dangled in Kara’s now tussled curls. She looked at Tiffany. “Don’t judge, it’s fucking Monday.”

Marching past Tiffany she pulled her blouse down taught to her waist. She gave a “poof” of air out of the corner of her mouth to blow her hair back. Tiffany shuffled behind her. “Hey, did you see the gas prices this morning? Almost a 50 cent increase from yesterday. Do you know what caused the rate hike?”

Spinning on her heels, Kara turned to look at Tiffany. “Do I look like I got up and checked the gas prices this morning?” It was probably more curt than she intended.

Tiffany giggled, “No, you look like you went to a frat party and forgot you’re ten years out of college.” Kara smirked.

“I know!” came a sound from the back of the store. Miranda waddled up to toward the two other girls. No one really liked Miranda. She knew everything, wanted you to know she knew everything, and constantly overcompensated for her unfortunate lot in the aesthetics department of life. “It’s because of the bombing.”

The two other women glanced at each other, then back to Miranda. “What bombing?” asked Tiffany.

“There was a bombing in New Jersey Saturday night. Thirty people were killed. Don’t you guys watch the news?” She spoke with that arrogant “I have a Master’s Degree but work at a fabric store” tone that Kara hated. The news, though, was unsettling.

“No, I didn’t know that,” Tiffany said.

Kara asked, “What does that have to do with gas prices?”

Miranda sighed at the effort she had to put forth explaining the workings of the world. “Fear. Shit like this happens and no one knows where it’ll be next. Markets do weird things, people start running on grocery stores. People are afraid.”

“So they raise gas prices?” Tiffany asked.

Miranda shrugged. “Sometimes.”

Through squinted eyes of irritation at the fact Miranda sounded like she knew what she was talking about Kara instructed, “Go finish stocking the clearance aisle please.”

Miranda walked away and with her, Tiffany, who was far more interested the economic downfall of society. Kara unlocked her office door, flicking the gum wrapper that was stuck to her Hello Kitty key chain dongle. She collapsed in her chair, casually tossing her purse on her desk. Thirty people, she thought. That’s actually pretty scary. 

After a moment of collecting herself, brushing away the last bits of trash from her skirt, she reached for her phone and thought, I wonder if Jacob knows.

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