Abandonment – Part One
Nathan pulled his eyes up from the floor mats of his used Toyota Tercel. Staring out into the monotonous grey abyss, he wondered how much trouble he would get into if he choose to take an hour to doze off in this unfriendly mode of transportation. He never actually considered it; he just imagined how satisfying it would be to shirk responsibility for a few fleeting minutes. Then again, thought without action was the best way to sum up Nathan’s life up until this point. Such a grim summation came to him when he peered neglectfully at his college graduation cap, which he felt compelled to keep laying on the passenger’s seat. The mortarboard was bent in the middle, the thin rayon fabric was frayed at the corners, and the tassel had lost some of its multi-colored strings. It had held up well, considering it was made to see the light of day but once in its existence. His mother insisted that he frame it or keep it protected in a box somewhere in his room. Nathan understood and appreciated the sentiment, though he couldn’t really see the point of it. The cap wasn’t a catalog of memories or a first-class ticket to a better time in his short life. To Nathan, it was nothing more than an empty trophy, an emotionless token to commemorate that thing he did one time for four years.
Nathan didn’t look back at college regrettably. He enjoyed every moment, every adventure, every opportunity, every heartbreak. Those four years were a virtually-interrupted orgy of growth and development, with frequent intermissions for social drunken revelry and sexual exploration. Every moment felt like another chance to be smarter, stronger, quicker, and better connected to the world around him. For the first time in what felt like a lifetime, Nathan felt secure, accomplished, unstoppable.
A car blasted its horn in the distance, violently shaking Nathan from his intoxicating daydream. His brow had gone moist and his fingers dug into the graduation cap, which he had vigorously held onto while in this trance, causing small, crescent-shaped indents into the mortarboard. He checked his watch: 8:23. Two more minutes before he was obligated to exit the vehicle and walk towards the mall entrance. He calculated that, at his normal walking speed, he could make it to the shop from his car (provided it was his normal parking space) in five minutes. Not early, not late, just enough time spent with his collegiate mementos to accept defeat, breathe deep, and exit the rusted car for another eight or so hours of soul-crushing monotony.
In this fashion, as he had done for the past two years now, Nathan returned the cap to the passenger’s seat. He took a detailed look at his hair and teeth in the driver’s side vanity mirror, the last of the concerns he held for his appearance, at least in this job. He breathed deep, as he was scheduled to do; it seemed to hurt more and more every day. With the universal resentment of a million minimum-wage workers, Nathan slid lazily out of the car and into the cold, dreary world. As he walked, he took notice of how empty the parking lot was, making him feel less guilty for his current begrudged demeanor. No one to judge, he thought, might as well let the feeling linger. He walked in the same gait, a strange marriage of determined yet defeated, until he approached the mall’s clean, cold, emotionless doors.
Just before he entered the shopping monolith, he peered up lazily at the building’s white walls, which were badly in need of a new coat of paint. For some reason, at that exact moment, he was reminded of the old brick-and-mortar, slate-and-shingle buildings of his alma mater. He remembered their charm, their safety, their presence being an inspiration for all who wanted to learn, grow, and push themselves farther than they’ve ever been. And, for a brief moment, he swore he saw the high-water mark of his life, moments before those very waters began to recede. Following a current he did not believe he could fight, he shrugged his shoulders and pushed open the doors…
Photograph by Marc Xavier