The trail unravels before me in a long snowpacked ribbon of blue under the pale setting sun. It's obvious that many feet have trampled this path, and yet, I stand alone amongst the pines. A panic begins to rise from the pit of my stomach making my cheeks flush. I turn towards the direction I came from, seeing the winding trail disappear around the rock cut, far into the distance. How long have I been on this trail? Am I heading deeper into the woods by continuing, or nearing the end? The thoughts bounce around my brain in a rapidfire argument against itself. To turn back or forge ahead? To call out for help, or figure it out on my own? I decide to keep going, wishing now more than ever I'd had a dog with me to guide the way. Animals have that innate sense of direction, something clearly I wasn't very good at. Tugging at the strings of my hooded red parka as I proceed with caution, imagining myself from a birdseye view; a blood clot inching it's way through the veins of the forest.
Sounds of the nearby highway grow stronger, and eventually the trail peters out to a flattened field at the edge of a side road. Spotting my car feels like seeing an old friend in a foreign land. I run towards it as the last of the daylight retracts from the sky. Starving and shaken from the experience, I turn the key, roaring the old Mazda to life and decide what I need most is a warm bowl of soup and to forget the whole ordeal.
The lights at the grocery store buzz in an irritating pattern as I scour the soup aisle. I've taken to shopping in the evenings to avoid running into people, preferring solitude in my errands. I shop with purpose. Grabbing two cans of tomato soup and a box of saltines, I make my way to the cashier briskly.
"Hello again, Jeanette," the cashier smiles broadly showing her gapped tooth and dimpled cheeks.
I nod, rummaging in my purse, a task I find helpful in avoiding chitchat.
"Same price as yesterday," She cackles and her belly jumps at the peak of each laugh.
"Which is?" I clear my throat. I have no time for cute.
The cashier gives a confused look, or perhaps hurt, and says, "$5.60."
I give her the money, grab my cans of soup and box of crackers before she can ask if I want a receipt and paper bag.
"Wait!" the chubby cashier calls to me. I want to keep walking, but instead I turn around, raising my eyebrows to queue her to speak.
"Can I see the crackers for a second, Jeanette?" She holds her hand out, and I want to run away from this bizarre interaction, but I reluctantly give her the red box instead. She tapes the receipt to the box, and I don't like it, but I don't want to talk to her anymore, so I just nod and turn to leave the store.
Back at home, the soup is now simmering on the stove, and I head to the cupboard to retrieve the crackers. There are red boxes piling on top of one another, each one with a receipt taped to the side. That same panic nags at my belly again, just as the soup begins bubbling over the stove. Shit.
Once I've cleaned up the mess, I decide to go back to the crackers again, approaching them as if they were a mouse or spider invading my home. An unwanted thing. Moving slowly but purposefully, I squint at the pale ink on each paper, scouring each one for a date, but have no luck making anything out. I decide that I just need something to eat, so I open a box, stuffing away any discomfort, and head back to the kitchen to eat.
I'm awakened the next morning to a snowplow's incessant beeping as it backs up on every nearby street corner. "Ugh!" I say aloud to an empty room. The floor is icy cold on my bare feet, so I tiptoe quickly to the washroom and start my day.
Sitting with my tea and toast at the kitchen table, sounds of CNN echoing out from the living room, my morning is starting to turnaround. The plow long gone now. Figures, now that I'm awake, the beeping subsides. I crack open my laptop to check my email. The computer hisses an alert.
Please reset your password.
"Ugh." I slam my fists down almost spilling my tea. I think for a moment, then chuckle to myself.
The computer asks me to confirm my new password. I snicker a second time as I type it, then hit the save button, success.
14 new emails, yet they're all the same:
You've recently reset your password. If this was not you, please notify us.
I stare at the words. My fist holding the mug suddenly feels like it weighs a thousand pounds. It begins to shake, spilling drops of hot tea onto my lap. My world shrinks to a single feeling. It's as if tectonic plates are shifting under my skin, volcanoes erupting inside my blood. "My brain," I gasp. What is happening to me? My lip trembles as if not wanting me to even utter what I suspect. Just hold the words inside. Don't let them out.
I just need a walk, to clear my head. I grab my red parka and pull the hooded strings tight around my chest, clutch my car keys and head out the door.
The trail is crisp with the morning's frost as I make my way deeper into the wood. The pines whisper to me, the chickadees flit about, unbothered by my intrusion on their space. I walk with purpose. The pathway is beaten down, you can tell many feet have walked this path, and yet...here I stand, alone among the pines.
About the Creator
Author, Mother, Wife. Recipient of the Paul Harris Fellowship award and 2017 nominee for the Women of Distinction award through the YWCA. Climate Reality Leader, Zero-Waste promoter, beekeeper and lover of all things natural.