You have forgotten to food shop again. Or rather, once again you conveniently let the thought slip your mind. It was late and you had worked a double waitressing at the truck stop. You smelled like grease and burnt coffee. The change from your tips weighed you down. You just wanted to get home.
Who could blame you, sweetheart? Things have been rough lately. You had been spending the night at Larry’s, but after starting to suspect he was growing bored of you, you had a heavy ashtray launched at your head and that was that. You should have known better with him anyway. You can never trust a line cook. And then, of course, the day after that your dog died and the day after that, your mother. It just hasn’t been your year. So, who could blame you for taking one look at the men standing outside the convenience store at 2AM on a Wednesday and conveniently forgetting to go in and pick up something to eat the next day?
Of course, now you’re in a pickle. You open the cabinet doors to find one can of kidney beans, a large amount of pumpkin purée, a very old bag of half-eaten marshmallows, and a box of bow-tie pasta. For formal pasta dinners, you think, when your ordinary pasta just wouldn’t do. You consider that there may be some way to combine the pumpkin purée and the marshmallow, but you quickly decide that you are not the one to figure it out. You know your fridge is empty so you grab the marshmallows, jumbo-sized, and stick one in your mouth. It is stale and chalky. It sucks all the moisture out of your throat as you swallow it. You throw the rest of the bag away. Trying to ignore the rumbling in your stomach, you check the clock and realize despite getting up on time and skipping dinner, you are running late for the night shift at the diner.
You have two choices: You can rush to work, knowing that you have already been given three warnings about being late. You will potentially waste the little money you have left on bus fare just so that you can be fired in person. Or, you can call it a day, hell, call it a year, and take those last ten bucks down to the bar for happy hour.
You choose Choice A. You have always been responsible. You decide to head to work. You take the M6 bus uptown. You get off one stop early. You always vary where you get off the bus because you don’t want strangers knowing your schedule. Your mother taught you that. You walk quickly with your head down along the main boulevard and then you duck onto the one-way side street that will dump you out behind the truck stop. Just as the building comes into view, you notice a man midway down the alley standing completely still and facing you. He is wearing jeans and a neat button-up shirt with the sleeves rolled up. His hair is carefully-slicked back. He is probably just one of the truckers but he looks too neat to be a trucker. You notice that he is looking at you intently. As soon as you notice this, he begins to move towards you. As he does, he loses the tiny smile that had been on his lips. Your instinct is to run, but you are aware that he is too close for you to get away. For a split second, you realize that you should have chosen…
Choice B. You are so sick of this job that for once in your life you decide not to do the responsible thing. You pull off your name tag, strip out of your uniform, and zip yourself into a black dress because you are in mourning after all. You head outside and cross the street. The cheapest dive bar you know is a block from your apartment. As you approach, you notice two men outside in a heated argument. They look ready to throw punches, and you worry about walking past them in order to get to the door of the bar. You are not interested in becoming collateral damage. You decide not to cross the street. You continue walking. As soon as you do, you hear the pair conclude their shouting match. You can also hear that one of them has jogged across the street and is walking behind you. He asks you if you have the time. You ignore him and head to the convenience store. At least you can get your shopping done, you think. While inside you buy cereal, milk, and two boxes of macaroni and cheese. You then decide you deserve some candy. The girl at the counter makes you wait while she finishes a phone call, but soon you are heading outside again. The instant you pass through the doors, you realize the guy from the bar has stood nearby waiting for you. You turn back towards your apartment quickly, hoping to lose him. When you cross the street, you no longer hear his footsteps, but you don’t want to check behind you because you don’t want him to know that you’re scared. You think that if he knew you were scared, he would be even more likely to try something. Instead, you walk a little faster, though still casually. It is dark but you can see your apartment. It is the next in line. You are passing the small inset where the garbage cans are sheltered between the two buildings when you feel a heavy hand on your shoulder. You instinctively wish you chose…
Choice C. After glancing yourself over in the mirror, you unzip the black dress and choose a less form-fitting purple dress, which never looked that great on you, but you really don’t want to draw attention to yourself tonight anyway. It doesn’t matter. You still end up being dragged into the alley with a hand over your mouth. And you have dropped your groceries. Even the candy. Which landed in a filthy puddle and is now utterly inedible. You get in one good punch to the gut, but you just know he’s going to take the change in your pocket too. The worst part is you can still taste that awful marshmallow.