by Erin Fitzgerald
I stop in one of those little pink stores with spinning racks of tiny earrings. I check the pens, and then the keychains. They never have my name. The names they have are ridiculous. I have never met anyone named Portia. I’ve met other Phoebes. An art teacher, the lady who writes my dentist appointments on white cards, and a girl at gymnastics camp. They were all nice enough. What’s wrong with us? I bet they’re fed up, too.
The Madisons and Kaylas and Emilys are all picked clean. Those girls have problems of their own. But there are Portia’s keychains. Eight of them, on sale for 99 cents because the Emily keychains are gone and there were never any Phoebe keychains in the first place.
I look around once to make sure no one cares about an almost empty rack of 99 cent keychains. My hand drifts up to the rack of Portias, like it’s in someone else’s claw game. I drop one into my shopping bag, close my eyes and wait for either the register girl or the feeling of being a thief to push me like an ocean wave. I’ve never done this before, I hear myself say in the future, and I say it again because it’s true. I took the keychain so that I would remember to look for Portia, the girl who is half a step away from me. Portia has everything and doesn’t seem to know it. I will give her the keychain when I meet her. Paying one dollar and eight cents for that moment seems stupid when I have already been through so much.
The wave never hits. I’m still standing in a calm sea of earrings, scrunchies, and perfume sticks that smell like candy. It’s all right, and I wade past it all. The girl at the register smiles at me as I leave. “Have a great day, Portia!”
–refers from the word “shopping” in Addy Robinson McCulloch’s poem Sheets