Three cardboard boxes were what she could afford. It would have to do. The tired,
whisper of a woman, her yellowed hair tightly pulled back because she knew there would be no
time to wash it, put the boxes in the cart. They looked small, so small and the cart so absurdly
empty that she took them out and carried them to the front of the store. The cashier greeted her
with a $12.00 an hour smile.
“Find everything you were looking for?” she asked in a voice that sounded like she’d
asked the question ten thousand times already that day.
The yellow-haired woman thought about that, wanted to say ‘no, she hadn’t found
everything she was looking for; that she had been looking most of her life and hadn’t found it
yet; that she was, frankly, god-damned tired of looking.’
“Just the boxes,” she replied simply.
“Looks like someone’s moving,” the cashier remarked a little too cheerfully.
“Yes, moving,” said the yellow-haired woman and then, vacantly added, “out.”
“That’ll be $4.75.”
The yellow-haired woman carefully counted out the money, two singles and an
assortment of quarters, dimes and nickels. She could feel the people in line behind her staring,
knew that they were annoyed at how long this was taking. And she didn’t care because she had
stopped caring about what other people thought of her.
It was night as the yellow-haired woman made her way back to the apartment, and she
bathed in the unctuous darkness, relished it, the peaceful blackness soothing her mind. Once
home, she gazed nervously at her watch, knowing she still had time, but checking anyway.
Two hours. Two hours until his shift ended. Then, he’d be stopping at a bar on his way
home. Three hours, possibly more. Plenty of time to pack.
She methodically began unfolding each box, one at a time, then taping the seams, a
reverential exercise which gave her great satisfaction when it was completed.
A suitcase would have worked better but she didn’t have the money to buy a new one and
hers, the one with the wobbly wheels which always seemed to take her in a direction she did not
want to go, had been rendered useless with the boxcutter.
She placed her meager belongings on the bed. Cosmetics, toiletries, phone charger and
the four items of clothing that had, by virtue of being in the dryer, escaped the boxcutter.
Delicately, she packed each item, slowly, ever so slowly, as if by prolonging the experience, she
would have more to pack.
But when she had finished, she began to softly cry, as she had only enough to fill two of
the three boxes.
She thought about leaving a note but couldn’t think of anything to say. The truth was, she
didn’t love him enough anymore to bother with hating him. And so, she simply taped a note to
the bathroom mirror that said ‘goodbye’, left her key on the kitchen counter and escaped into the
She made her way to the bus stop, a box wedged under each arm. Once there, she gently
set them on the bench, positioning them just so, with the care of someone placing an offering on
She saw the bus still blocks away, its friendly glow of warmth and redemption flowing
toward her. She wondered if there would be others on the bus like her, escaping from their past.
But when she boarded the bus, she was the sole occupant which made her doubt that there was
anyone like her, anywhere, that had just gone through what she had.
She extracted the plane reservation from her back pocket, the one her sister in Phoenix
had made for her and read it. It felt good to read it in the open, something she had been unable to
do until now. Los Angeles to Phoenix. Flight 1020. Depart 11:05PM. Arrive 12:07AM.
It suddenly occurred to her that she would be leaving today and arriving tomorrow, the
start of a new day, and found that reassuring. A new start. She would get a job. Save some
money. Get out on her own. And then, maybe, she’d go somewhere. Travel.
And she’d buy a suitcase. A nice one. Made of leather. With solid metal wheels that
didn’t wobble, so it went where she wanted it to go and not the other way around. And maybe
she’d get her initials monogrammed on the suitcase. No, not just her initials. Her name. Natalie.
And for the first time in a very long time, Natalie smiled.
Dave is a retired teacher who taught language arts to special needs students in Arizona for 39 years. He now resides in California, writing poems and short stories for children and grown-ups.