The car’s brakes whistle through the drizzling night like some kinda solitary bird, echoing across the blacktop and against the imitation-granite building.

I’m standing in the closed pharmacy drive-through, vaping away my lunch hour. Zero nicotine. I quit smoking at the beginning of the year, but in some ways, we are our habits.

A suped-up diesel monstrosity rushes into the lot, bass blasting through the subs ripping apart the eardrums of the group of Budweiser cap wearing country boys riding in it who have nothing better to do at 2am on a Saturday than roam around Walmart.

I never understood why people loiter here. I never wandered Walmart in the night when I was in my twenties. I stayed home, watched the Flintstones and took bong hits like a sensible person.

I smile, steam trailing from my lips as I stand beneath the dim light in an old cashmere blend overcoat and a dusty wool pork pie hat. It’s warm for the end of November, but the bugs have all died off leaving the overhead light unassaulted by the usual racket of moths.

I tip my brim to the rain and step back inside. Most of the customers are speaking softly. The atmosphere is strange in the store, as if the building itself has a Black Friday hangover. Dozens of discounted products still sit on display. More people are flocking to the net on Cyber Monday these days rather than risk bodily injury at the stores.

Our store manager is pissy about the numbers, but I don’t mind. A maintenence worker was trampled to death in a New England Walmart a few years ago when he unlocked the sliding doors. No one died at ours this year, but two people did throw up. They must’ve got too excited.

Sometimes, I don’t mind this place, and I love some of my coworkers. But, overall, it’s dismal. I’m quitting in a little over two weeks and hibernating for the winter. Just like the monks do during the monsoon season, I’m gonna settle in and practice, practice, practice.

But today, today I get to bring my cat Zoe to the vet  She’s been meowing funny and kinda acts like there’s something irritating her throat. I hope she’s alright, I admit that I’m a little nervous. She’s one of my best friends. I’ve had her for 13 years now. 13… Holy shit that’s abstract.

I’m sure she’s fine, but this reminds me that she’s going to pass away someday no matter what. That’s gonna be rough. Really fucking rough. I doubt I’ll get another pet after she’s gone. I’ve witnessed more than enough withering in this life. Best to travel light.

I’m aware of the pit in my stomach. Dreading the ride there with her scared and meowing that unfamiliar hoarse meow, or even worse, silence. Silence would be worse. I’m afraid that they’ll find nothing and that the mystery will continue. Unknowns are always so difficult to handle, but that’s a huge part of the practice.

What I do know is that I’m not gonna hide. I’m not going to use any meditative tricks to dance around the anxiety. I’m done making myself into someone else. When there’s worry, there’s worry, when there isn’t, there isn’t. I’ll leave the jhanas to the monks.

Maybe ya can’t get to the Second Noble Truth without fully processing the First. Life is suffering – no shit, Siddhartha. Let’s ride through the storm.

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