The sound of shopping carts rattling is right up there with children screaming. Each clatter and bellow haunts my waking daydreams. My only escape from the din is when I clock out for the day. But most nights, an echo of the sounds reverberates through my brain as I attempt to fall asleep.
My hair hangs over my eyes as I lean over the the length of carts in front of me. They seem to go on forever as if I was pushing them through a hall of mirrors. My neon orange vest hangs askew over my work-issued royal blue polo and black slacks. Even though I have worked this job for over six months, the uniform still feels like it hasn’t been broken in.
“Looking good, babe.” Slurs a scruffy-looking loser walking past me.
I ignore the asshole and keep my focus on my route through the parking lot. Between jerks like that, the never-ending clatter from the carts, and the kids who collapse and wail in the middle of the store when their mother tells them no, I find myself wishing I was deaf.
In the break room, I collapse on the couch and close my eyes to try to get a reprieve from the madness outside, but they linger as shadows in my head.
Suddenly I feel my foot being kicked. My heart jumps out of my chest with the realization that I had drifted off to sleep.
I hear a child screaming in the distance. The stench of cigarettes that is my boss stands in front of me yelling at my name. I’m truthfully surprised that the presence of his odor did not wake me first.
“Get back to work.” he grumbles. “The carts are pilling up out there.”
I rub my eyes and nod. Without a word, I slip out into the pandaemonium.
The evening rush has me dodging cars and pedestrians right and left, seemingly oblivious to my presence. Still groggy from my nap, I nearly side swipe a car then almost plow down a customer when she decides to walk right in my path. People think these carts can stop on a dime.
Crossing the main part of the lot to return my train of carts back to the front of the store, I wipe the sweat from my brow while pushing back my hair from my eyes. Briefly, I catch a glimpse of the hood of a large truck coming towards me. I have only time to think – surely, the driver sees me – before I am struck sidelong and fly through the air, landing on the warm asphalt.
I’m dead. I’m sure of it. I feel warmth radiating all around me like my body is oozing and melting into the earth. It is silent and serene. I think I’m going to like this heaven place. But who would have thought heaven would smell like an ashtray?
I open my eyes to see my boss leaning over me, brows furrowed in an expression that mixes concern with what-the-hell-am-I-going-to-do-now-that-I-am-down-a-staff-member. He mouths my name and puts two fingers up, silently asking me how many fingers he is holding up. It is only then that I realize the absolute quiet I hear – no voices, no motors of cars driving through the parking lot, no screams of tiny children, and no clattering of carts.
Instead of answering my odoriferous supervisor or worrying my serious injury, I close my eyes and take a deep breath. With a smile on my face, I soak in in the silence.