When I Hid In The Bathroom And Cried
It took me a few minutes to recover. I had just had a small glimpse into losing my own baby—our baby. It was devastating. My body was fine, but my mind was not. How was I supposed to feel? It was worse than splitting up with Jim, or so it seemed at the moment.
I backed away from the Earth Trolley. I just couldn't do that anymore. If that was my life, I couldn't handle it. Not now. I made it to the bathroom before the tears began to fall, locked myself in a stall, and shook silently. I was so alone, but felt as though I deserved to feel so wretched because I'd meddled in my own life.
I blew my nose with the soft-as-sandpaper toilet tissue and waited until a woman coming out of the next stall washed her hands and left. Then I unlocked the door and walked up to the mirror. My face was pale; my red-rimmed eyes were glassy amber. “Did I do the right thing?” I asked myself.
I thought about Jim and how helpless he'd looked. I thought about Natalie's sympathetic face. Then I remembered meeting Natalie with baby Hope, remembered what she'd said:
I know he thought it wouldn’t happen. He was so scared that time. I remember. Oh, how scared we were! But, you were so brave, and the way you talked… I just knew you were right.
She hadn't said anything about the break up, and she was my friend; she knew what we'd been through, and she would have mentioned it. And there was the skull tattoo on Jim’s wrist, covering up our names. That hadn’t happened. Was it possible I'd jumped forward to something that would happen if I didn't make him promise to keep trying? I realized I’d had to know that to go through losing my baby. I’d had to keep him from making a mistake I wasn't going to forgive him for.
I continued to stare at my reflection in the mirror. Perhaps it had been right, but it didn't feel like it. I grabbed a paper towel and dabbed at my smeared mascara, when I realized I'd left my purse in the buggy. I’d also left that energy drink I’d opened without paying for it. I didn't feel like getting my groceries now. I didn't feel like I'd ever want to eat again. But I left the bathroom and walked back to the aisle. The shopping cart was still there. Now the handle read,
R H R LE
I sighed and stared at the faded letters, undecided. I knew it wasn't over, though I couldn't say how I knew. What if I hadn't done what I needed to do? What if I had to go through the horror of that again? I bit my lip and thought about what I'd told Jim. I knew so little about him, but I knew he loved me. And I loved him.
“I hope you're grateful, Jim Huey,” I mumbled, as I grasped the handle again.
Natalie was handing me a paper plate with a square of white cake with bright blue icing. There were people with Huey's Market shirts standing around eating cake.
“Oh, I can't. I'm—on a diet,” I told her.
“You're on a diet?” Jim came around me. “What is the point of a diet, you little runt?”
“The frosting would do a number on that dress anyway,” remarked Natalie. “And it looks beautiful on you.”
“Thank you, Natalie.”
She beamed. “I didn't know you knew my name.”
“Of course I do.” I really wanted to hug her and thank her for supporting me, when she hadn't even helped me yet.
Jim came around me with a forkful of cake and cupped his hand underneath my chin. “Wedding or not, you have to eat my promotion cake; it's calorie free.” I opened my mouth obligingly, as he fed me, and wondered whether this was our wedding day. “Good?”
“Mmm,” I nodded, trying to enjoy it. I couldn’t have cared less—I never liked cake—but I pretended anyway.
No one noticed when Jim whispered in my ear, “Liar.” Then he left a sticky kiss on my neck. “The promotion's the sweet part.”
“Promotion cake is good,” I agreed.
“Now you'll have to stop stealing store products and pay for them, since I will know exactly how much of every item we have.”
“Yeah, Klepto. Don't deny it. I may have only caught you once, but you're a sneaky one.”
I just smiled, mystified. I stole stuff from Huey's Market? What was he talking about?
“We've got to head on. Thanks for the cake! Can't miss Chelsee's big day, right, Lyn?”
I nodded. Chelsee was the one getting married today! We said our goodbyes, and I began to push the cart forward, following him with the intention of looking at a newspaper to see what day my little sister was to be married.
He looked back at me, “Lyn, you're not taking the buggy with you.”
I stopped, and he saw the anxiety on my face. “Are you...? You're acting funny.”
“I'm having a spell,” I told him.
“Like that spell you had when I proposed?” He looked slightly concerned. “I don't think they'll be able to reenact the wedding for you, sweetheart.”
He grinned, walked over, and placed his arm across my shoulders. “I didn't mind. I think I did a better job with proposal number three anyway.”
I was trying to understand what he was talking about, as he leaned down and kissed the top of my head. “Are you nervous about the wedding?”
It took me a moment to consider. Yeah, I should be nervous! I nodded.
“You need to relax. They’re going to be fine.” He slipped his arm around my waist and pulled me toward him. I let go of the handle.
I was kind of sad then that I hadn’t held on. I didn’t know what it felt like to hold Jim and wanted to. And it would've been nice to know when Chelsee would be married, or at least to know who she would marry. It was probably not a good thing to know anyway.
I smiled at the thought that Jim had proposed three times. I remembered what he'd said about not remembering him when he’d asked me to forgive him. Did that mean I didn't remember the moments I'd popped into my own life? That kind of perplexed me. Perhaps it was understandable, though. I couldn't be aware of two of myself at the same time.
I was antsy now to know about the proposal and, looking down at the letters on the Earth Trolley, there wasn't much more besides, it seemed.
R R E
The letters were fading quickly. I was careful to place my hands as far from the leftover script as possible when I took the handle again.
This time I was in produce. I checked my cart for some clue telling me what I was doing there. I had an adorable tote—I very much approved of this one and couldn't wait to own it. In my basket there was a parsley bunch along with some tomatoes and artichokes. Mmmm. Artichoke season. I wondered if Jim liked artichokes, too.
Jim's voice startled me as it came over the store intercom. “Attention shoppers.” He sounded like he was laughing—very unprofessional. “Would the woman in produce—the one in the Star Wars T-shirt stealing the artichokes and tomatoes—please marry me?”
People were looking at each other. A couple of them looked at me and smiled. I wanted to sink into the checkered floor. I thought I was going to die of embarrassment, but decided to wait until I'd killed Jim first. I headed for the front of the store, charging along with my cart. I almost ran into him.
I glared at him. He grinned.
“What was that? I’m not stealing!”
He just grinned even bigger. “Well?”
“Well, you just embarrassed me!”
“Does that mean you're not going to marry me?”
I looked down at my hand before I realized I wouldn’t know whether I had a ring already or not. Then I burst out, “Are you serious? You propose with the ‘one stealing artichokes and tomatoes’?” I pursed my lips. “I don't think I will.”
He began to back away. “You want a public apology? I can do that.”
“No!” I almost let go of the cart in my panic to stop him from announcing anything more to the store of shoppers.
“Okay, okay.” He seemed to grow serious then. He stepped a bit closer, put his hand on the side of the cart, and began to kneel.
“What are you doing?”
“I'm proposing traditionally.”
This wasn't at all as I'd imagined it. A candlelit dinner or a walk on the beach... A red rose handed to me with the ring nestled inside... Jim didn't even pop open a velvet box. The solitaire was between his index finger and thumb, his nails chewed to the quick.
“Lynlee Murray, will you be my wife?”
The question was asked rather matter-of-factly. He seemed pretty sure of himself. It almost felt like a job proposal instead of marriage, so I went with that.
“Depends. What's the position entail?”
“What do you want? I can go over the benefits package.” I didn't like the glint in his eye. “Being an honorable man, you’ll have to wait for the test drive; but I give you my word that—”
“An honorable man doesn't call his girlfriend out in front of the whole store for stealing—which I was not.”
“Be honest. You like the thrill of it, Klepto.”
I sighed and rolled my eyes.
“How about this,” he said. “I promise to love you for the rest of my life. I promise to take out the trash and mow the lawn and fix whatever I can fix, put the toilet seat down, squeeze the toothpaste tube from the end, and...” I was laughing now, as he continued with “...take care of you and take care of our ten kids and—”
“We're going to have bunches of kids. You know I've got a thing for kids... a little A-1 on the side for flavor.”
I wasn't laughing now. “Can you promise to love me if we don't have kids?”
His forehead crinkled a little. He looked stumped. “Not even five?” It was only a half-jest.
“Not even one. Do you still want to marry me?”
“You said you liked kids!”
“I do, but... would you still want to marry me without them?”
He stared at me a long time, then firmly told me, “Yeah.” We looked at each other in silence, and he added, “It's not about the kids, Lyn.”
He got up from his knee and stepped closer, reaching his hand out to place the ring on my finger. “Aren't you going to let go of the buggy?”
“Just kiss me first.” I wanted to know what it was like—me, still waiting for him in the past. I didn't find out though. He put his hands on my face, and I pulled my head away. “Your wrist!”
“You should have a heart there with 'Jim N Lyn' inside—Oh.” I cringed at my mistake. That hadn't happened yet. “Nevermind.”
“You are acting so weird today,” he told me, as his hands caressed my arms. He was looking at my lips.
“I have these spells sometimes,” I murmured, not sure whether he'd know what I was talking about.
“Spells?” he asked, as I inhaled his scent. He bent his head toward mine.
His hands slid up my neck to embrace my face again. I forgot how to breathe. My fingers and toes curled beneath his touch, and I lost my grip on the Earth Trolley. Wow. He was like electricity through me.