by Olivia Tejeda
Last night my husband announced he wasn’t happy. No explanation, no discussion. He calmly packed a bag and ended our life.
I spent the night in a bombardment of confusion and pain. My marriage meant everything to me, it defined me and happily so. Now it’s over, and I am paralyzed by it. This morning I’m so lost I don’t even know how to begin the day. The activities that mattered before, don’t anymore. I need something that still feels real.
I don’t know what to do, but I know that I have to get out of this house where I have nothing and go someplace where I have something – anything but the loss of a life I believed in. I work a menial job, shelving books at a store, but my passion for books makes the work meaningful for me and now it feels like a lifeline.
Like a robot, I get ready for work, allowing myself to feel nothing but numb. I follow the route and realize as I pull into a parking spot that I don’t remember any of the drive. I was in a mindless trance, putting myself and everyone else on the road in danger, but I don’t care and even regret arriving safely.
As I walk into the store I get the strange but comforting sense that unlike my home life, everything at the store is the same. A co-worker greets me as always, but I hurry off before responding. I’m so raw that the simple kindness of her greeting breaks me and the tears come back stronger than last night.
Hiding in a bathroom stall, I’m doubled over and heaving with sobs that I try to keep quiet. I don’t want anyone to hear because I don’t want anyone to know. I’m deeply ashamed. I had complete faith in the security of my marriage. I thought it was stronger than any other marriage I’d ever seen. Now that it’s over, I’m humiliated by my arrogance.
I have no answers for all the questions I know my co-workers will have. They’re the same questions I would have had if this was happening to someone else. But it isn’t happening to someone else, it’s happening to me. Now I’m stuck crying in this bathroom stall.
What the hell made me think I could work today? How did I ruin my marriage? How can I live through this? But here I am at work, and I have nowhere else to go. I can’t go home, so I need to find the strength to get through this horrific day.
When I finally recover enough, I go to the stock room where there are no customers, and I can work in solitude. I unload boxes and drift between numbness, misery, rage, and fear. I have to go out to the sales floor at some point, but I do everything I can to delay it. I don’t want to lose control out there. At least in the back I am alone with my loss, and I don’t have to hide when it overtakes me again and again.
I can’t put it off any more, so I roll my cart out onto the floor and start shelving. Again, I get the strange sense that everything’s normal, and I hide behind that false comfort.
As I shelve books, customers stop with their usual questions: An author’s name, the latest bestseller, directions to the bathroom. Some part of me grabs onto those questions and hopes that maybe each time I take care of a customer, I’m doing a little bit to care of myself.
At the end of the work day I know my broken life is waiting for me. I don’t know how I’ll get through it, but at least I made it through this day. Even if my husband doesn’t need me anymore, my customers do and my books do, and I wonder if that will be enough.
Thank you for reading my flash fiction. Please share any constructive criticism and feel free to let me know about any errors you find here. To read more flash fiction from a great group of writers, search #fridayflash on Twitter or visit Mad Utopia.