by Meghan Louise Wagner
My boyfriend takes a ring out of the glovebox and says, “I’ll get you a real one soon.” It’s still so pretty. It doesn’t fit all the way down my finger, but it sparkles. He yanks my hand in the Home Depot parking lot, and I follow him inside.
It smells like cardboard and sawdust. We’re there to pick out our new house. His hand squeezes mine and my fingers pinch. People in orange smocks ask if we need help, and my boyfriend says, “No.” He walks fast, and he tells me to hurry.
Fertilizer and peat moss bristle against my nostrils when we’re outside the garden department. I see a stone carved Peter Rabbit statue that my step-mom once attacked my Dad with at a Fourth of July party like it was a baseball bat. Everybody laughed as fireworks popped in the night sky. They couldn’t believe she was strong enough to pick it up by herself.
Me and my boyfriend are in the ceiling fan aisle. A short, fat, bald guy with a red flannel shirt under his orange smock looks just like my high school geometry teacher. He asks if we need any assistance. My boyfriend keeps walking and doesn’t even respond. I look back. It is Mr. Sasina.
We pass refrigerators, gas stoves, and lighting fixtures. Tall, tan and maroon patterned Oriental rugs hang from the ceiling. Giant rolls of gray carpet are stacked in concentric circles. Neat rows of caulk guns hang by their handles on racks. I overhear an old man in an orange smock say to a young couple, “Well, you can certainly pay someone to do that for you.”
My finger is numb. My boyfriend stops in the cabinetry department. I see a familiar woman in an orange smock with a clipboard at her side. She’s dyed blond and a double-D. The makeup on her face won’t hide that missing tooth on the upper left side of her mouth. It’s my boyfriend’s ex-wife. She looks at us, or looks at my boyfriend, and scowls. “You again?” she says.
He squeezes my hand and raises it up to show off the sparkly ring. “We’re picking out our new house,” he says.
“You getting another one?” she says, writing on her clipboard.
“We’re happy,” he says, “we’re so happy.”
“Come on then,” she says, “let’s get this over with.”
My boyfriend asks for my input on cherry-wood brown paneling or stained-oak. I breathe dust and remember how the damp grass felt beneath my bare legs on that Fourth of July. My fingers were free and tangled in the soft blades. “What’s Stacy doing?” my sister asked, and I looked up to see our step-mom charging across the lawn with Peter Rabbit in both hands like she was Jose Canseco. It was amazing. It was pretty amazing how she was able to pick it up all by herself like that.