One of the distractions Jonathan has offered me during his deployments is sole access to his Best Buy rewards. Because, like any man preparing for marriage, he understands that most fears, anxieties, and sadnesses can be soothed by sparkly smartphone accessories and romantic comedy DVDs.
When Jonathan’s latest passed-down rewards came my way, I headed to Best Buy to get an armband for my iPhone. Usually I tuck my phone into the waistband of my gym pants when I’m lifting, but I’m getting really annoyed with having to reach down my pants to retrieve the phone every time I stand up or want to change the song. And I’m sure the other gym patrons could probably live without seeing this constantly, too.
So when I went to check out at Best Buy with my fancy new armband and Jonathan’s emailed rewards certificate, my checker (a pretty teenage girl with a funky asymmetrical haircut) couldn’t find a barcode in the email, so she asked me for the phone number on the account.
And I completely blanked.
It’s been five months since I’ve called Jonathan. I know he has forbidden me to count down like this, but counting or not counting doesn’t change the fact that it’s been five months since I’ve seen Jonathan’s number on my caller ID; it’s been five months since I’ve known that he’s safe somewhere for more than a few minutes at a time; it’s been five months of waking up to that urgent, unfounded sense of worry, and remembering as I open my eyes what it is, and why it’s there.
The checker stared at me like I was maybe some kind of low-class criminal who specializes in stealing people’s Best Buy rewards so I can buy iPhone armbands and Hello Kitty earphones (which I definitely would have bought if I’d seen them on my way into the store instead of on my way out).
“Uh, sorry. It’s my fiancé’s account. He’s in Afghanistan. I haven’t called him in a while, so I’m blanking on the number,” I blurted quickly.
“Why is he in Afghanistan?” she asked.
“…He’s in the military. He’s deployed.”
“Oh…Do you like that?”
I stared at her for a moment, because I thought maybe she was mocking me, which is probably some sort of hate crime, but she looked back at me with slightly widened, genuine eyes, muddled with black eyeliner and the boredom that comes from working at a register.
“No. I don’t like it.”
“I couldn’t do that,” she said. “I feel like I’d be sad all the time.”
Jonathan’s number popped suddenly back into my head, and I recited it quickly. Then the checker said I needed to spend one more penny in order for my purchase to cost the full amount of the rewards certificate, so I grabbed a pack of sour gummy worms from the register shelf and tore it open as soon as I got into my car, and proceeded to eat half the bag before I made it out of the parking lot.
I’d like to think I have more good days than I have bad days like this. For the most part, I’m able to get by without drowning my sadness in neon-colored sugar. Which is good, because otherwise I’d have diabetes by now. And I’d probably be radioactive.
But some days are harder than others. Some days I can’t force-quit the anxiety. Some days it’s impossible to pretend the sadness is being caused by something far less significant, and therefore doesn’t need to control me (for instance, I like to pretend that any time I’m upset, it’s just because SpongeBob is on, which should be exciting, but it’s the episode where Sandy sings that awful, awful song about Texas and I’d almost rather eat glass than have to sit through that song again). Some days, the sadness is not that simple.
And, for those days, there are gummy worms. Just not that specific bag of them anymore, because I ATE THEM ALL.