“Never say never. I’ve seen Zentastic do amazing things. I wouldn’t sell it otherwise,” the sales clerk spouts.
I shake my head. “Then you’ve never been desperate for a paycheck. My mom would have sold pills filled with horse manure if it meant keeping a roof over our heads. And plenty of people were mean to her when she took jobs like yours. That’s why I’m trying to be polite as I decline your offer. I’m going to roll away now.”
“You can get a free raffle ticket just for giving your phone number. I don’t even have to verify it!”
This is why I have to work on meditation. “610-555-1212. I’m Miss Bath. Anita.”
“Anita Bath at the number for information?” The sales clerk laughs.
Wren Noel and I head off.
“You’ve dealt with that type before, eh? Someone is probably going to call from an autodialer to follow up,” Wren Noel points out.
“Maybe. And the computer will say that it needs a bath. Which will be hilarious in that computer voice.”
I look over at the empty space where the bookstore once was. “There are worse money making ideas. I read Rich Dad Poor Dad and wondered what kind of perfect health that guy and his family were blessed with to be calm when they hit rock bottom. No power to keep the life-sustaining machines running, no money for prescriptions and doctors. I wonder if there could be a book like that for people with chronic illness in America. Is it even possible to avoid going broke, to not need public assistance at some point? My mom wouldn’t have taken half the jobs she did if it weren’t for my bills.”
Wren Noel stops, turns, and kneels beside me. “Hey. Don’t do that.”
My eyebrow shoots up. “What?”
“Feel guilty about the cost of being. Or blame yourself that your mom had to do things to keep you going. There are places in this world where the larger community would have helped. Where “it takes a village” has become “it takes a country” and they are able to provide healthcare to all citizens because it isn’t about survival of the fittest. You live in America, not in those places. That isn’t your fault. One day, maybe all life will be valued equally, and the fight for survival won’t include a fight to prevent poverty. It isn’t here yet. So, instead of letting the guilt eat at you, go fight for that. Okay? It isn’t your fault.”
I feel my chin quivering. “Keeping saying stuff like that, people are gonna think you’re proposing to me or breaking up with me.”
“Here,” Wren Noel pulls a napkin out.
“I don’t know if I can let you be my roommate.” The tears slow as I regain my composure.
“Kinda think I’d rather date you.” I laugh lightly. It isn’t really a joke, but I need a buffer in case rejection is coming. Wren Noel hugs me.
*** 498 words
(Language note: Anita sounds like "I need a", which is the joke. I need a bath.)
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