LoveLines
Author:S. Walden

“You okay?” Erica asked, interrupting my thoughts.

 

I nodded. I wasn’t interested in discussing Brian or my OCD anymore. They were always the same conversations that led to no real understanding—why I do the things I do, why I drive away all the men I date, why I feel like a failure. No one wants a sad friend, and I didn’t want to be that girl. So I persevered, slapped a smile on my face, tried my hardest to exude happiness. For the most part I was good at it, but every so often, Erica would notice the cracks in my armor, and she tried to help me mend them. Because that’s what best friends do.

 

“Need any help with the groceries?” I asked, walking to the kitchen before anyone answered.

 

***

 

Noah dropped me home sometime around nine. I’d stayed for dinner, thought I’d sobered up sufficiently to drive, but was told to keep my car right where it was—on the curb in front of Erica’s house. She’d drive it over tomorrow.

 

I live in a cul-de-sac in an old neighborhood filled with one-story brick homes. They’re small—no bigger than 1500 square feet—but the perfect size for a single woman tired of paying rent. I bought my house two years ago. I’d started saving for a down payment eight years before that. I thought my mother would be so proud of me for purchasing my first home—on my own—but she was more concerned about the people to fill it.

 

“Just me, Mom,” I had said during my housewarming party. It included my dad, younger sister, some coworkers, a few friends from college, and Erica’s crew.

 

“Not even a roommate, Bailey? At least get a roommate. I mean, what’s the point of two bedrooms if it’s just you?”

 

“Office space,” I replied.

 

“Office space for what? What do you need an office for? Do you take work home with you? Do they make you work nights and weekends at that place? Honey, let’s talk about the sales job. Remember that sales job I told you about?”

 

“Mom, I’d be working more in sales. Do you understand? We’ve been over this. Days. Nights. Weekends. Holidays. Vacations. That’s a sales job!”

 

“Honey, this job is different. Now I gave Archie your number. He said he’ll call you—”

 

“Oh my God! I just bought a house, Mom! Can we focus on the house?!”

 

Yeah. So that’s how most of the conversations went with my mother. God, my mother. What can I say about her? She’s your stereotypical, “When am I getting grandchildren?” mom. She worries incessantly. She carries around passive aggressive judgment and doles it out at just the right moments. I’m convinced she decided not to like me once she learned I inherited OCD from my father. Or contracted it. Yes, my mother would use the word “contracted,” like I have some filthy gutter rat disease.

 

But back to my house. It’s a cute two-bedroom, two-bath place with hand-scraped hardwoods and a sink in my bathroom with two separate knobs. Makes washing my face a pain in the ass, but I like the vintage feel. I wouldn’t change it when I updated the room.

 

I’m your shabby chic kind of girl. Everything in my house looks like a flea market find. Most everything in my house is a flea market find, now that I think about it. I like to discover those discarded treasures, adopt them, bring them home, and clean them up. I think I relate to them in a way. No one wants me, so I understand how they feel. I mean, just because we’re quirky doesn’t mean we lack value.

 

I waved to Noah as he drove off, then made my way up the brick path to my front door.

 

“Bailey!” shouted my next-door neighbor. She was putting her trashcan on the curb.

 

“Hi, Soledad,” I replied.

 

She was a plump, little Hispanic woman always wrapped in an apron. Never failed. Every time I saw her, she looked like she was in the middle of baking. She wore her long, black hair up in a bun with the same silver earrings dangling from her lobes. She had nine children—nine. I didn’t think people still had that many children.

 

“Esos ni?os me están volviendo loca,” she said. “Tuve que venir aquí sólo para alejarme. Usted probablemente se ha preguntado por qué estaba poniendo mi basura en la calle cuando no se recogerá hasta el lunes.”

 

“I had a really nice day,” I replied. “I visited my friend, Erica, got a little tipsy, cried about my ex-fiancé, then ate pizza.”

 

Soledad smiled. “Me gustaría tener tres ni?os de menos, ?sabes? Sólo tres. Pero decir eso, no es una cosa común para una mujer hispana. Tenemos familias grandes, Bailey. Así es nuestra cultura.”

 

I nodded. “I should probably put my trash on the curb while I’m thinking about it. But I’m also OCD, so it’s not as though I’ll forget come tomorrow evening, right?” I giggled, and Soledad giggled, too.