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Closing Time MAG
Wednesday night, some time toward the middle of July. Outside, it's still hot, muggy,almost full daylight. Inside the Polo store, we are checking our watches.Faithfully. Every ten minutes.
The air conditioner broke today. Thirdtime this summer. I charged into the store expecting a cool oasis in the95-degree heat, but no such luck. The heat is making a long shift feel evenlonger. But by some miracle, my watch says eight o'clock, and everything aroundme is starting to say it, too. Liz has abandoned her register to refold knits.Ali is sleeving oxfords in the hope that they won't be touched beforenine.
As usual, I'm in my "hole," Home and Kids. It's the veryback of the store, with my folding table hidden in a corner. It gets pretty slowin Kids most nights. As I wrap tiny knits around my miniature folding board -which today doubles as a fan - I'm wondering what in the world I'm doing here.
I could be at camp in a tank top and cut-off shorts, singing along withSeth's guitar. After our campfire, we'd all go up to the kitchen to pig out onfudgesicles, Jessica's granola, and leftovers. My feet wouldn't throb and my neckwouldn't ache, and I'd probably be too happy to think about him.
He's thereason I'm here, after all. We were going to spend this summer together, doingthings like driving to Storyland, fishing, taking picnics all over the state.This job wasn't going to be my whole life. It wasn't going to beimportant.
Now it's all I do. Wake up in the morning, pick out niceclothes for work, go to Polo, work till ten or eleven, come home exhausted,collapse in bed. It kind of sucks, when I think about it. Giving up my job atcamp and doing all this because of a guy who dumped me and went on a road trip.Actually, it really sucks.
"How's it look back here?" Aliinterrupts my pity party. She turns a package of sheets right-side-up in theirdrawer and reaches for a crumpled towel.
"Pretty good," I assureher. We're both fanning ourselves, tugging at our shirts, hoping if the fabricdidn't touch our skin, the heat wouldn't either.
"We won't be longtonight," Ali predicts. She hopes not, anyway. She's got a double date to godancing with Dan and Greg and Demarie. But it could go either way; Pat's closing,and she's hard to read that way. We'll be here till ten, anyway.
We killthe music at quarter to nine. It's a subliminal message to the few customersstill poking around: We're shutting down. Go to L.L. Bean, they never close. Itdoesn't work, it never does; they don't leave till quarter after. Finally, Patlocks the door. The vacuum comes out and closing really begins.
Tonightwe're out by twenty past ten. By then the store has cooled off enough that it'sbearable. It doesn't matter anyway, because we're out. I walk into the warm,humid night and make a beeline for Ben & Jerry's. They're nowhere nearclosing; midnight, the girl tells me as she carves out my Cherry Garcia and ringsin my Freeport-employee discount.
I sit on the rock wall in front ofL.L. Bean's, waiting for my father to pick me up. The air smells of French friesand the ocean, and Starbucks coffee ...
I wonder where he is tonight.Whether he's thought about me in the past month. I've certainly thought abouthim.
But I realize that now, I don't really think of him as much as Iexpected to. Not every minute. Not every hour. Not even every day. And it's notwith tears now, just a resigned understanding of what he did, and why he felt hehad to. And the tightness in my chest that keeps easing up, little by little. Idon't know if it will ever go away completely. But it's on its way.
I'mnoticing other things about myself, too. I'm not as shy these days. Not asnervous around people. I'm losing weight. I'm even looking at some newguys.
I know these are all really small changes. But maybe they're addingup to something big. I know that I did the right thing this summer. Moments likethese - eating ice cream in the middle of town at 10:30 by myself - convince methat I did the right thing, even if I did it for the wrong reasons. Moments likethese convince me that somehow, no matter how long it takes, I'm going to beokay.
I slide down from the rock wall and climb into my father's car.