Adrienne always scored poorly in the department of Tupperware management. A quick sniff and an off-color patch of fuzz were all the feedback one needed. She snapped the lid shut and pitched the left-over spaghetti dinner turned frat-party for germs full into the sink. “I hate my life.”
She didn’t mean it. Adrienne simply hated the idea of MacDonald’s for breakfast. It would mean double-crossing her diet for the third time since Sunday and a distressing time at the Laundry. After tugging into a nice clean sweater and brushing her hair she found the car keys and was out the door.
The idea of being hungry enough to have looked twice at the spaghetti somewhat amused. Glancing about, she checked herself on the icy front steps.
From a sizeable ring she arranged the car key squarely in hand. There would be no fumbling for it in the cold wind. This was well done, except for the jolt she got from the car alarm while working the key into the wrong door. She moved to the next car down and the key fit without complaint.
Throughout school days she’d always been a good student, regularly near the top of the class. Nevertheless, whenever some emotional state nagged, she floundered among the most organizationally challenged. Adrienne pulled away from the curb and flipped the heater on. It was a burst of cold heat the fan blew.
“Secret pigs, secret pigs.” Adrienne drove past the laundromat and turned the corner. “Secret pigs, secret pigs.” The bag-lady repeated the phrase under her breath as she meandered down the aisles of washing machines. Like a coin on the linoleum. Adrienne remembered the swollen ankles as the old woman shambled by the seating area. It is amazing how long a coin will roll when you don’t want it to. Upon the machine whirring with Adrienne’s clothes the woman unpacked her shopping bag, repacked it, and unsatisfied with something, repacked it again.
Eventually the old woman finished with her business, bumped her way out the front door, and trundled along down the street. “Secret Pigs.” Adrienne and her best friend both looked up from their mobile devices once it was safe. Through the glass front they watched her go. There was some sense of relief and a mysterious sense of guilt too. She flipped another page on her e-zine. Her friend leaned close. “There goes one lost puppy, huh.” Adrienne couldn’t understand the desire to slap her best friend right at that moment.
At the drive-through window, they took a credit card. The coffee was carefully handed down into the car along with a bag of breakfast. The girl had a sweet smile. At the next light Adrienne turned toward the college. The heater was beginning to work now.
Teaching elderly students in the computer lab a fellow tutor once told Adrienne: “People don’t really hate computers. They hate the bad programming.” It sounded true enough for some reason, she couldn’t remember at the moment. Adrienne checked herself. Something was bothering her, she had all the signs. And, that wouldn’t do. She tried sussing it out. Why was it so hard to leave after graduation? It certainly wasn’t for love of the school. No. That was just a tired out gripe – not the real McCoy. There was something else. Why didn’t the heater work instantly in the car like it did in the apartment? It can’t be that hard. Pulling into the parking lot she gave up trying until she had a bite to eat.
Light traffic in the hallway, heels echoed and rubber soles squeaked. Faculty gathered in knots outside doors. On the way to the computer lab, booting up the morning with a bite of this and a Styrofoam cup of that, the welcomed warmth spread. She hated her life, but she didn’t mean it. The body still had its funny little pleasures.
Adrienne remembered it then. That day, the bag-lady had smelled like spaghetti, slightly off.