My friend, Larie, owns a handbag boutique several blocks from my day-job office, which gives me an excellent excuse to spend my lunch hour shopping and gossiping.
I was doing just that on Thursday afternoon when the owner of a neighboring shop walked in with a big cardboard box.
"Hey, Larie, do you need this for any shipments?" she asked.
"Nope, I'm good."
"I'll take it!" I announced as I reached for the box. "I need lots of these right now with all the cleaning and organizing and decluttering I have to do to get the house ready to sell."
She kindly handed over the box, and I said my farewells and headed out the door. I hadn't gone more than twenty feet when I noticed something odd – people seemed fascinated by the box. Or rather, by the sight of a reasonably well-dressed female with a nice handbag slung over one shoulder and a big cardboard box in her arms.
Several strangers stared openly. One woman gave me a quizzical look and raised her eyebrows with an unasked question.
"It's my new dressing room," I informed her. "I live in a refrigerator box, so this is the perfect size for a nice walk-in closet."
She laughed uncomfortably and crossed the street.
En route to my office, I decided to stop in an upscale jewelry shop to ask about consigning my old wedding ring. I felt weird marching in with my cardboard box, so I set it outside the door and hoped no one peed in it.
I'd been inside about five minutes when one of the owners walked in. "What's with this box outside?"
"Mine!" I shouted a little too loudly. "I didn't want to bring it in the shop, but I'll take it with me when I go."
"I had to look inside," he admitted. "I thought maybe someone dropped off a litter of kittens."
Unfortunately, there were no kittens in the box when I reclaimed it, but that did remind me of a couple things. For one, I had cat sitting duties to attend to after work. For another, I didn't have my car because Larie and I had decided in advance we'd carpool to book club that night.
So after I stored the box in the corner of my office for the afternoon, I carted it with me as I walked to my friend's apartment to take care of his cats. They had a fine time crawling in and out of the box, and I briefly considered taking them with me just so there'd be something interesting in the box. Well, something besides my unwashed Tupperware from lunch and the bottle of wine I planned to bring to book club.
As I was walking back to Larie's shop, a stranger stopped me. "I've gotta ask – what's in the box?"
"Brains," I informed him. "I just killed four zombies in my backyard and the brains will come in handy for Halloween."
When I arrived back at Larie's shop, she eyed me warily. "You're still carrying that box around?"
"I'm kind of enjoying it."
She didn't seem surprised. "We're too early for book club. Want to grab a drink at the D before we head over?"
"As long as I can bring the box."
So we marched into our favorite dive bar and found a table for three. The box got its own chair, Larie ordered a vodka cranberry, and I asked for a gin and tonic.
"Nothing for the box," I told our waitress. "That's our designated driver."
"Uh-huh," she said, trying discretely to peer inside.
"Actually," I said, "would you mind taking a picture of us with the box?"
She cheerfully snapped the photo, probably hoping crazy people make better tippers. Larie and I immediately texted the picture to our friend, Lindsay, who moved away to Omaha last spring.
We wish you were the box.
An extraordinarily long amount of time passed, during which I imagined Lindsay phoning the police to inform them we'd finally gone off the deep end and required psychiatric intervention. At last, Lindsay wrote back.
I wish I was the box, too. I've always wanted to be a box. Does that make me sound like a whore?
We paid our tab and got up to leave. "You ladies have fun with your box," the waitress yelled.
"I always do," I called back, wondering if she'd meant to make a naughty joke.
I stuffed the box in the back of Larie's car and buckled it in for the drive to book club. I toyed with the idea of taking it inside, but decided the box had already had enough fun for the evening.
At the end of the night, Larie dropped me in front of my house. "After all that, you'd damn well better not forget that box in my backseat."
"I've got it, I've got it," I assured her. "Thanks for showing my box a good time."
I hesitated, balancing the box on my hip.
Larie sighed. "You're waiting for me to say 'that's what she said,' aren't you?"
"It would be nice."