tractors taking up half of the road, like in Michigan. The small brown municipal buildings that we called “downtown” Saginaw aren’t even close in comparison to the soaring skyscrapers in New York City.
So the more and more I think about it, New York and Saginaw have absolutely nothing in common, and I think I’m okay with that. Maybe I keep trying to make them similar to try to reassure myself that living here won’t change me . . . that whatever growing up means, I will still be myself when I get there, only different.
My phone pings again. Pulling it out, I see my mom’s name twice, making my heart race. When I read the messages, I relax. One of them is a link to an article about a Harry Potter–themed bar that just opened in Toronto, and the other is an update on my little sister’s weight. She’s a little one so far, but my mom still has four weeks to go. The last month should give little Abby enough time to bulk up in there.
The thought of my wrinkly little baby sister wearing a pink headband while lifting little pudgy arms into the air makes me laugh. I don’t know how it will be to be a big brother, especially at my age. I’m too old to possibly have anything in common with the little one, but I want to be the best brother I can be. I want to be the older brother that I needed when I was young. It will be an adjustment for my mom and for Ken, to have such a young baby at home again when both of their other children are grown and finally out of the nest. My mom kept telling me that she couldn’t wait to have her house to herself, but I could tell she would be lonely without me around. It’s always been her and me, through the best and the worst.
As I wait for the crosswalk sign to change and show that glowing white silhouette, I remind myself how damn lucky I am to have the mom I do. She never once questioned my move and has supported every one of my whims since I was a child. My mom was that mom who would dress up in costumes with me months away from Halloween. She even told me I could live on the moon if I wanted to. When I was a child, I often wondered if I ran fast enough, if I would land on the moon. Sometimes I wished I would.
When the light changes, a woman in high heels struggles to cross the street before me. I don’t understand why women put themselves through so much torture to look taller. The intersections here change quickly, usually giving pedestrians less than thirty seconds to cross. I type a quick response to my mom and promise to call her tonight. I shove my phone back in my pocket, deciding to read about the bar later.
I really want to go to Toronto, I always have, and a flight from here is only an hour, so maybe I can plan a trip over winter break. I’ll most likely go alone, even though a wild part of me suddenly suggests that I take Nora—she would be fun to travel with, I bet. I have a feeling she’s traveled more than I have. Even without knowing her, I see her as someone who’s been a few places, or just knows more about the world in general than me. There’s only so much a textbook can teach you. I’m proof of this. I would love to travel, and soon.
But why am I imagining Nora and me on some tropical beach somewhere, imagining her in a tiny bikini top, her full ass peeking out from the bottom? I barely know her, and yet I can’t get her out of my head.
The deli just below my building is never crowded, and sometimes I feel bad for Ellen, the young Russian girl who works behind the counter. It worries me that she sits in there alone at night. The bell above the door rings as I enter, and Ellen pops her head up from a thick textbook and gives me a polite smile. Her short, wavy hair is tucked behind a thin headband that matches her red sweater with small white dots.
“Hi there,” she says to me as I scan the refrigerated section in the back for milk.
“Hey, Ellen,” I say, grabbing a container of milk; I check the dates because I’ve left here with expired products more than once. Then I search for a blue Gatorade, to grab for Nora the next time she comes over, but they don’t have any. I have time, so I’ll just walk down to the next-closest store after I leave here.
And for the second time today, I find I could have used one of the tote bags Tessa keeps a supply of near the door. She likes to discourage the use of plastic, and now every time I open the door, I hear her voice, reminding me of the damage plastic bags wreak on the environment. That woman watches way too many documentaries. Soon she’s going to boycott wearing shoes or something.
Ellen closes her textbook as I approach. I grab a pack of gum from the shelf in front of the counter. She looks a little stressed, so now I really wish I had brought a tote, the one with a watermelon and a cantaloupe on it. Next to the watermelon is a text bubble that says, We should run away and get married and the cantaloupe replies, I’m sorry, and underneath that, the cantaloupe’s face is larger and it’s saying, I CANTaloupe.
Ellen finds the fruit humor just as funny as I do, which makes her quality people. And maybe a joke would make her smile.
“How’s it going?” I ask.
“Good, just studying.”