Sometimes I find little moments of personal growth with friends, out with the community, in sunlight and nature.
Sometimes it hits me in a rainy Goodwill parking lot.
My hands grip the steering wheel, breath fluttering in my chest. I feel like I shouldn’t be this nervous. In a moment I am going to lock my car, tighten my coat against the rain and buy some clothes. Simple.
The car beeps and I cross the parking lot, thoughts swimming with every step. Inside, rows of used clothing stretch outward under fluorescents.
I survey the racks. Thick crops of wool, polyester, cotton sit stacked on hangers, colors undulating from acid green to deep red. I take a step to the right.
My heart gets heavy. I feel it sink into my chest, brewing additional weight. As I get closer to the rack it beats faster. Stares stab through me, though part of me suspects they are self-inflicted.
I shuffle awkwardly around the other customers in the aisle. I would give anything to be alone right now, but I keep a tight focus on the wire hangers.
My hands piece through the rack. The search is quick and nervous. My heart threatens to thunk down my ribcage like an overripe apple. Anxiety begins to seep in. I feel out of place, ridiculous, like an incendiary sore thumb with a neon sign marked “QUEER” pulsating overhead.
I want to leave. I feel oddly exposed, like I’m sitting upright in an open field rather than a corner of a clothing store.
I take a deep breath. Then I straighten. In a moment of clarity I square my shoulders underneath my heart and carry the weight.
Suddenly I’m doing it. Pushing under an unseen yoke. I feel sturdy and unwavering. I feel like Atlas, or as much as a nervous 19-year-old from Indiana can.
My feet find their way back to the front. I am patient in line, purchases folded over my arms, assuming a pose I hope conveys that I am fine and that this situation is normal, even mundane.
I deposit three skirts on the counter, pay quietly and make a curt walk to the entrance. Outside rain pours.
Inside my car I feel like a thief. Like I had run into the Goodwill, grabbed what my hands could carry and sprinted out. But it feels more like a plundering, like I claimed something forever mine. I feel vaguely optimistic as I turn the key and drive home.
Avraham Forrest is a writer from Indiana. They attend Indiana University. In their spare time they enjoy baking and jogging. Follow on Instagram @avraham_forrest.