Olivia found the moving box quickly, despite her fatigued mind and muscles. Retrieving the newspaper-wrapped Mr. Coffee, she rinsed out the carafe and placed the machine lovingly onto her tiny excuse of a counter. Then she groaned as it dawned on her, “Of course. I have no coffee filters. Just fucking great.”.
With a resigned sigh, she grabbed her phone, money and keys, threw on a hoodie and left her newly “all mine” apartment on foot.
Winding through the elm-lined park, she guessed the direction of a convenience store. No – correction. They called them bodegas here. She rolled her eyes and kept walking until she finally found one. It was small and dingy with crowded aisles of canned meats and Ramen, but approximately zero coffee filters.
She left empty handed, dejected and too tired to keep looking. Frustrated tears began to fall.
Coffee filters were such a simple need. But nothing in this damn place was ever simple. People were rude and self-centered. Drivers were kamikaze assholes with a Kill-Or-Be-Killed mentality. She dodged potholes large enough to eat a small child during her morning commute, and every day there were new piles of human excrement to step over in the office door alcove. Rats counted as roadkill. The idealistic non-profit job furthering the musical minds of inner-city youth turned out to be a 6 days per week grind. There wasn’t enough money for both rent and food. She wanted more. Better. Something not THIS.
Olivia stopped at a park bench, tucked her knees into her chest and broke. It wasn’t supposed to be this way. She had left everything behind. The unfinished doctoral degree. Jack, her now ex-boyfriend, who decided long-distance was too inconvenient and tossed aside 3 years with one 10-minute phone call. All her family and friends.
She was alone. And she was so, so tired of being strong.
Mid-sob, her phone rang. Olivia dug into the kangaroo pocket for the red flip phone and saw her sister’s number. Sniffling and clearing the tears from her voice, she tried to answer cheerfully. She and Alex exchanged pleasantries, but her sis didn’t miss the undertones.
“You sound sad, Liv.”
“I’m okay, Alex. My life isn’t terrible here. It’s just hard right now.”
Then Alex said the words Olivia had been beating down for weeks.
“Come home. You’re miserable there. We love you and we’ll take care of you. COME HOME.”
Olivia feebly choked out the words, “I can’t.” and changed the subject.
When she climbed her apartment building stairs again, she swiped angrily at her tear-streaked cheeks and thought… no, this was not what she signed up for. But she’d be damned if she would pack up and leave, running home to safety, simply because things got HARD. If she gave up, that meant one thing. She was a failure.
In Olivia’s book, failure was the dirtiest word of all. It was time to stop wallowing and fix it. This wretched place would not beat her.