It all started with the slow decline of interest in my job. I worked so hard for so long and it finally burned me out. I started letting my appearance become a little more relaxed, I started to arrive later to work and still leave early despite that. I was just not interested anymore and it was starting to show.
This particular morning is much worse than the usual delay. I had unknowingly snoozed my alarm so many times that today, I would be noticeably late for work versus my average tardiness. Tired from the the initial panic that I felt from my abrupt awakening, my mind went on autopilot. I became lost in my thoughts as I completed my morning routine. It was easy though; I’ve had a lot on my mind lately. I’m in constant analysis mode of my life, my decisions, and worrying about what's ahead. Each day truly is a gift and I need to start figuring out my passions and my purpose.
After an unknown amount of time had passed, I was ready for work and walking out the door. It wasn’t a far walk to the train station and I got there just in time to hop on. The doors closed and as I looked for a seat, I saw none other than my friend, Kacey. When I approached her, she looked up at me from her book in absolute shock before busting out into laughter.
“What’s with you?” I asked
“That is a bold outfit choice, don't you work today? ” She asked as she pulled the headphones out of her ears.
I looked down and my jaw dropped at the sight of my bare legs. I quickly found a window to check out the rest of my reflection. The person staring back at me, with a matching shocked expression, was dressed in jean cutoff shorts, a loosely fitted Milwaukee skyline T-shirt, a backwards concert hat, and combat boots. In truth, it was not a bad look but my boss was not going to appreciate it as much as my recurring tinder guy would.
“Fuck…” I said, both worried and horrified. I was clearly on another planet this morning.
“What’s your boss going to say when he sees you dressed like that?” Kacey asked.
“Yeah... she definitely will not be seeing this look. I gotta change my clothes…ugh” I whined.
“You’re going to go all the way back home?” She asked.
“No, it’s going to take too long to go back home. I gotta get off the train over by the mall.” I sighed.
Shit, but the mall isn’t even open yet. Luckily, I remembered that my dad did some maintenance work at the mall. I pulled out my phone to text him to meet me at the mall for an “emergency”. I crossed my fingers that he would get my SOS and refrain from his usual dad questioning until we get there.
I hopped off the train two stops later, waved goodbye to Kacey, and ran to the mall. I spotted my dad waiting for me outside and a huge wave of relief came over me.
“I’m guessing your outfit was the emergency?” My dad laughed.
“Indeed, very perceptive of you.” I said. “ Please tell me that you can get me in here for a quick wardrobe change.”
“I can let us in the building but I can’t promise any stores are going to be open. You're on your own there.” He replied.
I was willing to try mostly because I didn't have much of a choice at this point. Dad and I walked through the back door of the mall to find the lights were all on but every store seemed dead and empty. I started to sweat. I was already so late for work and today of all days, I did not need this extra field trip. We were about to turn a corner and were taken by surprise by the shadow of a large crowd coming toward us.
“What the heck is going on?” I asked.
“Hey, there’s John.” My dad said, paying no attention to the crowd, “Are you good from here? You better get to work.... not looking like a train station bum.”
“Really appreciate that encouragement and compliment, Pop.” I said sarcastically as he walked away.
While I devised my plan, I did something I should’ve done as soon as I got off the train; check my boss’ calendar. Ahhh yes! She was in meetings all morning but her last one would be done at 10. I had approximately 35 minutes to get my new outfit, get on the train to go three stops, and walk to the office. It was go-time.
I knew that the stores that I needed were down a completely different wing so I started in that direction and once again my mind went on autopilot. A few short minutes of walking I noticed that the sea of people had drastically condensed and I was in the middle of the crowd that my dad and I saw earlier. I was barely able to see in front of me and was struggling to squeeze through this sardine can of a mall. It was as if the universe was totally against me keeping my job. When I finally got to a storefront, the guy working said that the only way I could buy anything was ordering it off of their new storefront menu. I didn't even have time to consider how risky this was but figured anything I pick out would be better than my current ensemble. I settled on a skirt, flats, and a sweater. Without thinking about where I was going to change my clothes, I booked it out of the mall. It was 9:45. I was going to cut it close. I ran to the train station and waited another long 3 or 4 minutes for the train.
As soon as it arrived, I jumped on and went to find a relatively empty car so I could change. I arrived to a car that only had a couple of people in it and I figured that seeing a woman undressing is probably not the craziest thing they’ve seen on a train. I got changed just in enough time to hop off at my stop and scoot to work. I checked my phone and it was 9:59. I still had a 5 minute walk which meant, I wasn’t going to make it. I spent the first couple minutes of my walk, mind on autopilot, coming up with a way to make it look like I was in a colleagues office for the morning or, at the very least, form an apology.
I dug for my keys. I pulled them out of my purse and searched for my office fob but it wasn’t anywhere on my keychain. This was extremely odd considering I had never taken it off of my keys since it was given to me. I had suddenly realized that my 5 minute walk had turned into a 7 minute walk. I looked up and the lot where my building stood just yesterday was completely empty. As if nothing had ever been there.