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how i came out of the closet and ruined my life (part 5)
i wake up in my back seat. i dig out my watch and discover that i've slept for about 4 hours, which is the most sleep i've got in the past 3 nights. i don't exactly feel refreshed, but i'm too cold to sleep any more. so i get up and drive again. i still can't go home, so i just go back to kroger. i left all my homework there, and hopefully i can just sit in the break room and get it done.

when i get there, rashid sees me, and so does this friendly bagger, chris. they both say hi to me, and rashid asks why i've slept in my car, and why i won't answer the phones any more (on friday, i told him that if anybody called for me, he should tell them i'm not here). i say i don't know, and then i go back to the break room to do my homework. i'm actually getting stuff done. i guess the 4-hour nap did me more good than i had thought, because i'm not crying, and i'm actually concentrating on my homework. nickolas comes back and is friendly to me, and later chris comes back and chats with me about analyzing algorithms (something that he knows absolutely nothing about, but he's thrilled to discuss it anyway). i get done with my homework for my first class. marie calls me on the intercom, and asks if i got any more e-mails. i tell her about them, and she laughs at the one from my sister. she says fly sounds like a typical girl, hearing something interesting and then wanting to gossip and spread it around. she asks why i'm here, and i tell her because i'm afraid to be at home. she asks where i've been, and i tell her. she tells me i have to go home, but then somebody calls for an override at their register, and she has to go.

i start on my homework for the 4th class, and then marie comes into the break room. she plops down in the chair next to me and asks, 'debbie, what are you doing?'
'homework,' i tell her, and i show her the circuits i'm drawing.
'i don't mean that,' she says, 'i mean what are you doing here?'
'homework,' i repeat.
'debbie,' she says, 'go home.'
i get scared, then. i don't want to go home. i don't want to answer the e-mails and i don't want to hear the phone ring. i can't face it, not now... i tell her i can't, and to please let me stay.
she starts gathering up my homework, and tucking it into my notebook. she says, 'debbie, your parents love you. your sister is a gossip, but she's not upset. i bet they are worried sick about you. you send them an e-mail, they react well, and then you disappear. when are you going to stop running away, if you don't stop now?'
'later,' i tell her.
'later is your answer to everything. it doesn't work that way. you need to face it, now. go home. if you don't want to talk to them on the phone, unplug it. if you don't want to see anybody, don't answer the door. but at least e-mail them back. and get out of this grocery store.'
'but nobody here cares... people here like me... i'm ok here...'
'debbie, everybody is wondering why you've spent the majority of the past 3 days hanging out in this smelly old grocery store. yes, they like you. but if you stay much longer, you're going to have to tell them the truth too. you'll be ok at home. i promise you will.'
and then she puts my books in my bookbag and takes it and my coat, and walks out of the break room. i follow her, trying not to cry, and begging, 'please, marie, no, why are you doing this to me?'
she doesn't answer. she just keeps walking, all the way out to my car. she unlocks the door, and pushes me down into the seat.
'but you can't make me drive,' i choke down the tears and keep talking like i'm ok. 'if i'm not going to drive, can't i just stay inside, and do my homework?'
'debbie, if you don't go home, i'm not living with you next year. you need to do this. go.'
i look up at her, and she's dead serious. she seems angry too, and i don't mean to make her angry. i don't mean to upset her because she's all i have...
'i forgot my milk,' i whisper.
she concedes, 'ok. go back in, and get your milk. on your way out, say goodbye to me. go home and make sure your phone is plugged in. 20 minutes after you leave, i'm calling you at home. if you don't answer the phone, for whatever reason, i'm not living with you next year.'
she's stern and serious. i get up and follow her back to the store, and when we're almost inside, i ask timidly, 'marie, are you mad at me?'
she stops walking and turns to face me. 'i'm not mad,' she says. 'i love you to death, debbie. it just frustrates me to see you doing this to yourself. you need to talk to them. you need to get some sleep, in a real bed. you need to stop running away, and face this, and it just frustrates me to see you being so stubborn.'
'i'm not trying to be stubborn,' i say.
'i know... you're scared. i know. but you need to go home anyway. get your milk, and see me on your way out, ok?'
i nod. and then i go get my milk.

on the way out, she's with a customer. she says bye to me, and i go out to my car. i try to decide what to do. it's about 6:30 on a sunday evening. my parents will probably be home. everybody who got that e-mail will probably be home. i don't want to go home... but i don't want marie to be mad at me, and i want to have a place to live next year. so i take a deep breath and drive home. there's a message on the machine from cindy. she left her school number, and she wants me to call her. evidently, she believes me now. my parents want an e-mail, nikki needs an answer, cindy wants a phone call... it's too much. i can't do this...

molly and aaron are in molly's room, laughing and coughing and smoking and drinking, and i just feel alone. i curl up in a ball on my bed, by the phone, and i wait for marie to call. all i can think is that i need to leave. i need to get out of here, away from the roommate that hates me, and the reminders of all the people who are expecting things from me that i can't give them. marie calls after 25 minutes, and she says she's glad that i answered. i ask her, 'please, can i come back now?'
she says i can't.
i beg, 'but marie, you don't get it. i just want to be with people who like me.'
'please... marie, my roommate hates me and my parents want answers and cindy left a message to call her, and i can't. i just can't do this... i need to be somewhere where people are nice, and don't want answers that i'm not ready to give... i just want to be there, and see you, and rashid, who talks to me always, and even nickolas is nice to me, no matter what, and...'
and i can't finish because i'm crying too hard. she asks, 'debbie, are you crying?'
'no,' i sob.
'you can't lie, debbie,' she says, and then she's silent while i cry into my pillow. i try to hold the phone away from the sounds of my sobs, but i know she hears. 'debbie,' she says gently, 'i love you. you know that. and it's going to be ok, i promise. send your parents an e-mail. tell them you need some time, and i think they'll understand. don't call cindy yet, if you're not ready. but please, you have to understand, you can't run away forever. you can't spend the rest of your life in the break room at kroger, just because it's familiar to you. don't you see that?'
'i guess... but i'm scared,' i whimper. my nose is runny and my pillow is soaked with tears, and i still can't stop crying.
'sweetie, i know you are. and it's ok to be scared. but it'll all work out.'
i hear kelly call marie. she tells me, 'debbie, i have to go.'
'ok,' i sniffle.
'are you still mad at me for making you go home?'
'do you know why i did it?'
'because it's good for me?'
'and because i love you,' she finishes. 'i get off work at 9, and i'll call you then, ok?'
'ok,' i reply, and i try to hold back the tears, because i don't want her to feel guilty, hanging up while i'm still crying.
'i still love you,' she reminds me. 'bye, debbie.'
'bye,' i reply quietly, and then i hold the phone until she hangs up. and then i put the phone back and i cry into my pillow for a long long time.