My process is as follows.
I get in my red Buick and I drive for 30 minutes until I arrive in Charleston.
I stop at a Rite Aid and buy sparkling water when I realize I don't have any change for the parking meters.
I go to my favorite place in Charleston (and beyond): Taylor Books, which is a bookstore-slash-coffee shop-slash-art gallery-slash fun place to hang out.
I order a dirty chai with soy milk, which I'm embarrassed to admit costs over $5, which is too ridiculous to discuss further.
I catch up on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and email. By "catch up" I mean I browse through. I respond to a few emails. I'm too behind to ever really catch up.
I google images of bunnies.
I repeat: I google images of bunnies. The frequency with which I've been repeating this practice is startling and mildly disconcerting.
When I'm feeling sad, hopeful, down, lonely, hungry, crazed, scared, giddy, strange or neutral: I google images of bunnies.
It's become a thing.
I think about my family. My grandpa died this weekend, did I tell you? We're all falling apart. Dying off. There will never again be another meal around that oak table in Colorado. There will never be another game of cards.
There was never going to be another meal or game there, anyway. They sold that place years ago.
And yet: I've been clinging to some weird hope that we'd return someday, haven't I?
My grandpa still being alive allowed for a kind of magical thinking when it came to my grandma. Because of course she could still emerge anytime, check in on him, take care of things ...
He is dead now. No more magical thinking.
I google images of bunnies.
I direct my browser to Craigslist. I'm returning west soon, and it's time to start browsing apartments in Portland.
I do not look at the one-bedrooms in my price range.
I look at the two-bedrooms. I think, "That'll be the bunny's room."
A homeless man enters the coffee shop. He wheels a bag behind him. His stench is fruity; his hair is matted.
He sits on the other side of a woman wearing plum-colored lipstick. From his wheeled bag, he pulls out an old laptop computer.
The lipstick lady stays a few moments longer before gathering up her things. She compliments me on my boots.
If I had a dollar for every time I received a compliment for these boots ...
I bought them last year after my boyfriend invited me to his office Christmas party.
I was the only one there wearing boots. All the women teetered on thin heels.
I helped myself to glass after glass of wine at the party, offered to me on trays by servers dressed in fancy clothes.
Sip sip sip sip, trying to make conversation with the lithe women teetering on thin heels. The men in suits. Sip sip sip.
He didn't want to talk to me the next day. I'd embarrassed him by drinking too much. Speaking too much. Being too much.
He wanted to break up, but I convinced him to stay. I'm always trying to convince people to stay. To try.
They rarely stay on their own accord.
Months later, he'll break up with me for not being enough. For not being as loud and crazy I was the night he told me to tone down . For not knowing how to pull him out of his shell.
The fruity stench of the homeless man is getting to me. I'd like to be open-minded and non-judgmental and to think about the plight of others and to not be an asshole, but his stench is making me queasy.
Maybe this is who I really am.
I stand up. I gather my things -- my overpriced coffee, my warm winter coat, my fancy laptop -- and I stand up in my cute, cute boots. If I had a dollar for every time I received a compliment for these boots ...
Maybe this is who I really am. I can't spend ten minutes sitting a few feet away from a homeless man, because his scent overwhelms my delicate stomach.
I gather my things and head to the other side of the store, away from the area where they serve coffee, toward the books where there are a few tables and chairs. The lady with the plum lipstick is already seated in one of them.
I smile at her faintly. Maybe this is who we both are.
We sit on the other side of the store, away from the stench, and type trivial things on our fancy machines.
This, I guess, is my process.
*to my mom