The figure didn't not even bother to acknowledge my mere existence, as she knocked into me. I did not proceed to make out her appearance, as it would appear useless. The only thing I was concerned about in this moment was the throbbing headache that followed.
I was on my way to El Cheapo, to pick up some food that my mother would’ve looked down upon, from her frosty throne all the way in Poland. The treatment I’ve received from certain people in this town was enough to make me stress-eat like crazy. My savings were going down with every stressful encounter I had, leaving me nearly broke. Penniless, jobless, and about to be dignity-less. Fortunately, I was reminded of my mere blessings, as I passed a homeless woman, shivering, hugging her scrappy dog close. I nearly shed a frozen tear, as I scavenged in my pocket for a bill or two. I dropped the pitiful amount I found into the woman’s outstretched hand, feeling good about myself as I continued on my way to El Cheapo. One point for Lucja.
The chilling air bit at my cheeks, giving me a sense of nostalgia, from the comparable weather in Warsaw. A couple weeks ago, I found myself scoffing at the weather here in Collingwood. It appeared the weather gods dually noted my attitude, as they had indefinitely proved their abilities.
By the time I walked into El Cheapo, it was near half past four. I rarely ever walked into this rundown store with intent to buy any item in particular. I left the decision up to fate, as I circled the aisles, contemplating what high-calorie food I should purchase. A pack of crumbling Donettes and a Sprite were enough to settle the little encounter I’d had earlier with that girl. She looked a bit familiar, I thought, as I made my way to the cash register. Perhaps a bit too familiar. Could’ve sworn I’d seen her roaming the halls of Collingwood Heights. Eh. I’d never paid too much attention to the other occupants of the apartment building. I was far too deep in my own affairs to concern myself with those of the residents.
The man behind the counter regarded me with a bored expression. Setting the two items before him, I dug around in my pocket for whatever change was due. The sound of the cash register clicking alarmed me. “Two-seventy five”, the man said with a snap of his gum. I pulled out a tattered dollar bill, two dimes, and a nickel. Shit. I completely forgot I gave the rest of my pocket change to the hobo. The sound of the man popping his gum alerted my attention back to him. “You gonna pay?” I sighed. “Sorry, don’t have enough money, sir.” In response, he nodded to the door, signaling me to be on my way. I reluctantly collected my pathetic pile of cash and headed to the door. The sweets and soda sat lonely on the counter, and I felt their beckoning call upon me. Unless..no. Hell no. I was not the thieving-type, and I would certainly not become one today. My thoughts were interrupted by the sound of snoring. I turned my attention back to the counter. The man, who’d been as lively as can be a minute ago, was caught in a deep slumber. A feeling of urgency took ahold of my fingers, an itching sensation I had never felt before. All sense of control was lost before I knew what I happened. I dashed to the counter, grabbed the items, and was about to run out the door when a bottle of Advil caught my eye. I quickly contemplated, decided to ditch the meds, and bolted from the shop, giving off the most suspicious appearance I had ever assumed.
Panting, I reached Collingwood Heights. I decided not to give my thieving any more thoughts, as remorse would surely drive me mad.
The row of mailboxes awaited me when I walked into the mailroom. My finger brushed the cold metal surface, as I searched for 11-04. “11-04, 11-04,” I murmured. Ah. Found it. I reached into my pocket and pulled out the little silver key, that I was quite capable of losing, given my track record with small objects. I was surprised to see a non-ad related letter, when I unlocked the box. The return address on the crisp white envelope alarmed me, and I felt a ripple go through my system.
805 Kelbierg St
My heartbeat quickened, and in a stunned response, I dropped the envelope. I shivered, not from the cold, but rather the racing nerves in my system. The address was written in none other than my mother’s handwriting. My mother. And why was my father’s name missing from the sender’s part of the address?
When I was younger, about seven or eight, I recall running to the mailbox each evening gleefully checking the box for any sign of mail. My parents would typically address the return label as ‘Mr. and Mrs. Borowicz’, rather than my mother alone!
This could only mean one thing. A separation perhaps. My father has had a love/hate relationship with alcohol for as long as I can remember, causing nightly arguments between my parents. It was a rather unpleasant living situation, but the streets of Warsaw were not kind to orphans, so I toughened up.
I figured if my mother wrote me, it must relate to something important. My mother…hadn’t made any attempt to contact me since I ran away from home. It’s been about two months, two, very peaceful months, since I heard from her, so this abrupt form of contact must’ve be urgent. I gingerly retrieved the letter from the floor, and, shivering, tore my way through the envelope. A thin sheet of paper was neatly folded- yup- definitely my mother’s doing- and I hesitantly unfolded it.
The tiny handwriting read (translated from Polish to English)
Don’t question how I managed to find your residency. That is the least important issue you need to concern yourself with. I’m planning on keeping this letter brief, as with all future forms of contact I plan on having with you.
You have dishonored this family, Lucja, with your departure. It has taken me two months to track down your address, and has caused the Borowicz family a lot of stress.
I simply wanted to inform you of the passing of your father. As you presumably failed to pick up amongst your years of residing here, he was a good man. A good husband. A good father, although this statement you will surely contradict.
He died too young, Lucja, and I hope you pick up on some old Catholic values, and pray for the fate of your father’s soul. For once, I would appreciate it if you tried to follow the morals of this family.
Your father managed to see some value in you, and as a result, has left you twenty grand. In my mind, you certainly do not deserve an amount of money as large as this, but it was in a section of your father’s will that he failed to inform me of. In order to respect his wishes, I will grudgingly hand it over to you.
But don’t get ahead of yourself just yet. If you expect me to fork over this amount of cash so simply, then you are quite mistaken, my dear.
I demand something in return. Something that will tempt me to not keep all this money for myself.”
The last four words were all it took.
“Come back to Warsaw.”
Perhaps I should’ve stolen that Advil.