excerpt from "I Hope You Get Lost" (short story)
I HOPE YOU GET LOST
After spending seven years working a job I never wanted, yet was over-qualified to perform right out of college, I decided it was time to leave the big fat city. New York, after all, was only getting more expensive, more corporate, and just louder in general.
On a Friday, which was usually the day where I felt better than any other day of the week, knowing it was my last day at work for two whole days, until I had to return on Monday, by far my least favorite day of work, I left the office in Midtown, and started walking, and as I reached half a block’s distance from the skyscraper where I worked, I thought of texting my boss, I can’t come back to work on Monday. Because I quit. I hope you’re happy. But then the voice of my grandmother came into my head, which was a voice often saying things like “Treat everyone with the same respect you would like to be treated,” “Love your neighbor,” and, especially, and unfortunately, “No matter what job you do, always make sure you leave on a good note.” She actually said something like that to us. To me. She liked eating lots of soup. Does one eat soup? Or is it more of a slurping condition?
Regardless, I walked back to work, went through the process of seeing the staff at security checkpoint, took the rickety elevator back to the seventeenth floor, exited the doors, turned right, walked to the opposite end of where the elevator got off, and entered the office doors where I had worked, silently and often unrecognizable, for the past seven years, and walked into my boss’ office to quit, only to find out she had been gone all day, and may have been on vacation all week.
I wrote “Sorry have to run away. For good. So I am not coming back Monday.” And left it on her desk, which I noticed also had a framed photo of two little kids, one wearing a sweatshirt with colorful pineapples on it and one wearing a sweatshirt with colorful berries. Twins. She must lead a very busy life, I thought. I had never even realized she had children, but then again, I never really talked with her, about anything, in over seven years.
I observed two plants in need of watering on her windowsill, and briefly considered giving them some water, but I had already walked back into the building and made my way up the elevator and back into our offices to properly resign, effective immediately, and my boss who I never even communicated with couldn’t provide me the courtesy of being in the office, so I decided I would just walk out the door. But before I walked out the door, I returned to my note, and added “Good luck” at the end of the note, but I was referencing the dying plants in need of water, and not the job position I abruptly shotput from my crotch.
One week later, I left New York. I took a one-way southbound train, which I had never done before, followed by a Greyhound bus from Nashville to Memphis. Then I hoofed my way from the bus station into town, about six-tenths of a mile. Once I arrived in the small town, I rented a small room in a tiny hotel with no exercise room, no pool, and only ten channels on a TV I never turned on. It reminded me of my bedroom in the big city.
I spent the first three days inside the room, showering once.
One afternoon, I sat on the edge of the unmade bed, my hands folded together, watching my reflection in the mirror, waiting for an apparition to exit my body.
Eventually, I found a nearby library and left the hotel for daytime trips to halls of information. Something about reading other peoples voices; some salve I could tolerate. The librarians were always nice to me. They left me alone. I researched different volumes and listened to podcasts I had long avoided, subjects surrounding my profession. I even accidentally turned one on and they discussed my research as being an integral part of their findings. Hearing my name and life’s work spoken that way only distanced me further.
For a little while, it felt like a long-overdue vacation.
Evenings, I would go for a run along the river. It didn’t feel so much like exercise as it felt a healthy distraction from my mind, my heart and all the spiderwebs between.
When I got tired, I slept. And I rarely smiled, except when I wanted something from someone. Or when I needed people to trust me. And when I met the nice old family who took me in and gave me a room and board in exchange for steady work on their dairy farm, I carried my bags to the small barn next to the house, walked up to my room, and silently cried, something I had forgotten to do. A life of simplicity was finally at my fingertips. I had no phone, no I.D., and no explanation for who I was trying to be. I was only gray. I wished to stay gray until the light faded.