I went to Home Depot to make myself feel better.
My dad used to take me there when I was little, when I had broken my arm and had to go get the cast looked at before they freed me from it. This trip to Home Depot-after-the-doctors thing might have only happened a few times, but it always made me feel better about having a caste from my wrist up past my elbow. Aisles upon aisles of not-yet-made things, tree houses and play props and PVC pipe for miles. Dad might remember these trips differently, might remember Elementary-School-Maria getting bored and pulling on his arm when he would enter into an hour-long conversation with literally every employee (he’s a carpenter), but I remember those trips fondly.
So, I went to Home Depot to make myself feel better. It was a weird day. All I needed was a watch battery, but I happened to be near Home Depot so I thought ‘why not?’
Even just driving up to the store transported me, but not where I thought. A few years ago, I was staying with three of my best friends in England, spending the final days of my three year tour in their spare room, hanging out. In exchange for the rent I should have been paying my friend that month, I painted the room I was staying in. I spent a few weeks painting a white room a different shade of white, which involved a few trips to the Home Depot-like store. It was the same feeling, same smell of sawdust, concrete and possibility. From Virginia to Oxford to Baltimore, these stores will always feel the same.
But this is not Virginia or Oxford.
I went straight for the batteries, thinking I’d get what I came for and then wander around and see if there was anything else I did not yet know I needed. I found the right one just as a middle-aged man to my right started talking to me.
“Are you going to be alone for the holidays?” he asked. His voice was high and soft and friendly.
“What?” I asked.
“Are you going to be alone for the holidays? I will be.”
I can’t remember what I said, but I know it was not the right thing.
“I could give you my number,” he continued, “and maybe I could come with you.”
“I’m sorry, but I won’t be around,” I said, lamely.
“There is something special about you, I can tell.”
“Oh I’m nothing special, that’s for sure,” I said. “I’ve got to go, have a good day.”
I walked away a little faster than I normally would, feeling much worse than I usually do in Home Depot. The portcullis of possibility lifted, the plywood and PVC pipe no longer looked like tree houses and time machines. The world smacked me in the face and not for the first time reminded me that I actually did grow up.