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The Last Straw

by J. L. Cross 12 months ago in family
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The Last Straw
Photo by FLY:D on Unsplash

Every day I do the same mundane boring tasks. I can hear the sound of my routine in the back of my head even now. It doesn’t stop repeating itself, even in the quiet space of my cubicle. The baby crying, the coffee pot sputtering, my husband's cheerful chirp “Goodbye, Sweetie!” just as the door closes behind him, that telling jingle of the dog’s collar as he runs room to room, excitement building for his morning walk. The squeaky sound of the changing table rocking unsteadily from a weak leg, baby talk, the roaring sound of traffic just outside my third floor balcony, the trickle of water over wilted plants, splashing up after making contact with dry soil. We leave the house three times, constantly forgetting something. The roar of the car engine and all the weird sounds it’s been making for three months. Can I add a physical eye roll here or is that asking too much?

I drop the babe off at daycare and within only a few minutes I find myself here, surrounded by the beautiful quiet of the office. This is the best part of my day. I concede to the quiet, sipping my coffee and rocking back in my swivel chair, spinning side to side, my feet just barely scraping the ground.

I assumed by this time in my life I would have more joy, an overall better feeling of satisfaction inside of me. I was far from it. Like most young mothers I thought I lost something rather than gained at the birth of my child. She is a blessing, no doubt, but adjusting to this new slow and overly redundant lifestyle was much harder than some people lead on. Now, I sat alone, really contemplating all the decisions I’ve made. Was this my mid-life-crisis? The thought put me into a trance.

A gasp passed my lips through the steam of my coffee and plummeted into the dark black depths. A slender hand grazes my shoulder like a whisper, jolting me from my thoughts and spilling piping hot coffee over my chest. A searing pain swept through me. Curses mumbled over my lips and I nearly thought to toss the last of its contents onto that dainty little hand. This is what I get for making a villain out of my daughter for the choices I made. I couldn’t help the sarcastic chuckle that rose out of me stirred by the train of thoughts flowing through my mind. Karma.

" I didn't mean to scare you." Her voice was gentle and delicate, but it wasn't much of an apology. I turned in my seat, making eye contact with my Operations Manager standing just behind me. I knew I was a few minutes late, again. How could I explain to a woman in her fifties that my life was busy, demanding, and even chaotic no matter how organized and routine our schedules were? I know, I shouldn't assume that she doesn't have this same experience archived in the back of her mind waiting to be called on when the memory serves useful to her; but this is Sam. Sam is different.

Sam turned her back on procreation and family. She chose a childless and reckless life, settling down at the ripping age of forty and in ten years made Management with a spotless and devoted record to her work. She didn’t have to bustle around chaotically a day in her life trying to get someone else’s life in order for the day, week, or month. It was pretty frequent that she turned her nose up at myself and coworkers when we talked about our toddlers and infants. Children were her true kryptonite, but not in the good healthy kind of way. Her skin would probably catch on fire and molten lava pour out of her ears if she heard one giggle in her proximity.

I admired women like Sam now though, even though those feelings of admiration were confusingly snuffled out by envy and jealousy. She stood her ground and went after what she wanted. Sam never stooped down to anyone else’s level and she had a knack at being overbearingly honest and crude when she needed to be. I did want everything I had, I just wasn’t prepared for the changes it would make. Can you feel blessed, smothered, and oppressed by your own life all at the same time?

“Let’s talk.” The attitude she slipped on the end of the words with a bump of her hips as she shifted her weight onto one leg and bent the other, her heel pointing behind her as the tip of her shoe balanced her. Her hand bracing her arm in that snappy angle as she motioned for me to follow her back down the narrow hallway to her office. It felt like an eternity to walk that walk. I wanted to jump and run, yell that I had to use the restroom, bolt in the opposite direction. The way she carried her shoulders, the confidence in the arch of her spine, the way she walked in those heels and her thin long legs that were downright intimidating to stare at, disappearing into her tight black pencil skirt that hugged her thighs. I knew what this was. This is the end. This is the “let down”. This is the walk of shame.

My coworkers were poking their heads out around their desks, bobbing their heads and gasping, some snickering and others barely letting the bridge of their nose crest over the edge of the cubicle walls as they all looked to see who was taking the walk.

I wasn’t here at this small company for very long, but I made a mark here. These people liked me and I liked them. We all functioned so well together. They didn’t want to see me go either, but that’s where I was going. I was going to be gone. Canned. Tanked. Let go.

Sam held the door to her office open, ushering me in, a mother duck scooting her duckling into the river to its first splash into the world of swimming. It’s time to swim or drown. It’s time to be an adult or go hungry. It’s time for you to go, find something better out there. This isn’t a good fit. Oh- how I prayed on the walk that those were the words she used. I didn't know if I could handle anything more harsh on my fragile little spirit. I was already constantly breaking myself down over the decisions I made in the last two years. I didn't need such a strong, confident, and successful woman like Sam to add it on. Have you ever stretched a rubber band just a touch too far? Just before the snap it frays at the edges a bit, the tension makes you nervous, the breaking point just on the edge. That's me. I'm a rubber band. Isn't that a good thing though? A nervous chuckle poked out of me.

My jaw was fixed, my teeth grinding into each other. I kept a straight face as the words left her mouth. Sam didn’t beat around the bush or tell me lies. I respected her so much for that. “I’m sorry, but we’ve decided that this isn’t a good fit for us.” It’s me, not you. Was it appropriate to cheer and laugh with joy that I got just what I needed from this let-down. She didn't say too much or say too little, just what was needed and it made my heart sing. I could live with this.

I took a deep breath, this was the best thing, I wasn’t even troubled the way I thought I would be. Did I think I was going to retch up my breakfast, choke on my coffee? Too late, I'm wearing it already.

“It’s fine. No, this is okay.” I found the words truer than I could have ever imagined. I worried all the time about making my bills, paying rent, buying baby clothes as she grew an inch every day, feeding my family, getting an education, and living up to the standard. Who set that standard for me? In just a moment of truth I knew; I set these unrealistic standards to try to be the perfect mother and the perfect wife for myself. I didn’t want to leave any room for me to fail or even grow from failure. I never wanted for any of our bills to be past-due, or a night that my husband had to, “fend for himself”, or an entire day spent not knowing what to do. I always had to have everything planned. Now, that has changed.

A deep breath of relief struck through me as all the pressure of this routine life crumbled around me. There wasn’t anything left anymore, no routine to follow, no worries, and no bedtimes. I laughed then as I packed my things at my desk into a crummy little box and made my way to the elevator with the widest grin on my face. I don’t need to meet those standards, I just need to do my best to give my family the best of me, but that didn’t mean I had to give anything up. After being fired, it was like I had more time than ever to do all the little things I dreamed of doing.

I sat in the blistering heat of my car for a moment, tormenting myself for feeling relieved and happy. I just lost my job. I didn’t know how my next month’s bills would be paid. Frankly, I didn’t care right now. No one could take away my family or the love we shared, and wasn’t that all I really wanted in life? I wanted this beautifully messy family and the hectic routines.

The engine of my little car roared, stuttered, and evened out. The AC tried to kick on, instead blowing hot humid air all over my face. Yes, this was okay. I drove that weird and rattling box to the closest coffee shop, never minding the stain on my shirt, and propped open my laptop. After ordering a cappuccino and a muffin I felt relaxed. I felt driven to really pursue my dream. I wanted to be a writer, not a corporate junkie. I wanted freedom to work from anywhere with anyone at any time.

“Mocha Cap, for JC!” Called the little brown hair skilled barista with a little energetic pep in her step and a pitch in her cute voice.

I took the sweating drink and wandered over to where they kept the straws, creamers, and stir sticks. For the first time today I felt like things were really looking up. I’d never been so satisfied by being “let go”. This was the start of a new chapter with a lot more freedom. I stared at the straw bucket, amazed that this was going to work out. I got the last straw, literally.


About the author

J. L. Cross

Passionate writer that loves fantasy, fiction, and some article writing. One published workbook on Amazon KDP, Writing a Book, Start to Finish; and hopes to publish more soon!

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