COVID RELIEF

Self Storage

Minty closed and locked the front door of her apartment , then walked

the short distance from her apartment to her car in the nearby parking lot.

The early spring sunlight bathed everything around her in soft, bright light.

The promise of spring always caught her by surprise, even more so this

year. It had been one year since the COVID quarantine had begun — a year

filled with loneliness, isolation, uncertainty, fear and anger.

Minty considered herself fortunate — she had been able to transition to

working from home, she had no children to homeschool or coordinate

online education for, no one in her immediate family had died from COVID,

she didn’t even have a pet who was affected by her constant presence at

home.

It was ‘just’ her, alone and surviving. Relishing the phone calls from and

to family, producing enough work to keep herself housed and fed,

watering and fertilizing her houseplants so she would have something to

talk out loud to while she was at home.

Minty started her car and left the parking lot, turning away from her usual

drive to the retail center where she stocked up on groceries, hit up Target

for cleaning supplies and affordable, comfortable clothes she could wear

at home/work (her favorite find was a sleeveless maxi t-shirt dress — made

with recycled cotton that doubled as a ‘housedress’ and nightgown but

could also be worn outside when she had to take out the trash).

Her world had never been far-flung or ‘large’ — she had a small group of

friends, her family was close-knit and small (mother, 2 brothers, nieces,

nephews, a few close cousins, a favorite aunt and uncle). The onset of

COVID had merely tightened the circle and prevented her twice yearly

trips to the west coast for family get togethers.

The road — a local highway — curved and broadened, Minty followed the

curve as it gently led uphill. Looking left Minty could see scattered

industrial businesses scattered with random retail storefronts and a big

box church. Half a mile past a large paint store Minty saw the sign — Self

Storage — in front of a nondescript, gray cement , windowless building.

Minty turned on her signal and turned into the parking lot, parking near

the plain, white front door. Getting out of her car , Minty could smell the

scent of a nearby stand of pine trees. Minty stretched and looked

around her , then locked her car door and headed towards the front door.

The front door was unlocked and led into a bright office. An older Black

man wearing a short-sleeved white shirt was sitting at a desk. He looked

up and greeted her with a simple “How can I help you?” .

“I’m here about the storage space,” Minty replied tentatively.

She had never done this before and had been surprised when she had

called earlier and had her questions answered matter-of-factly and openly.

Minty had thought her request would be answered with disbelief at least,

or derision at worst.

“I’ll just need you to fill out a form ,” the man responded . He stood and

held out a pen and a clipboard with a piece of paper attached. “It’s a

disclaimer and storage form in one. You are releasing your property to our

care and will be paying a storage fee for that care.”

“I understand,” Minty replied. She approached the desk and took the

clipboard.

“You’re welcome to have a seat while you fill out your paperwork,” the

man added, gesturing to a white plastic table and chair nestled in a corner of the office.

Minty settled into the chair and bent her head over the paperwork,

carefully reading the form as she filled in the blanks.

Ten minutes later, Minty returned to the man at the desk . He stopped

dong the paperwork he had been attending to and took the clipboard and

pen. He glanced at the completed form and looked up at Minty, smiling,

and told her everything looked ‘just fine’.

Minty gave the man her debit card and could not stop herself from

asking , “You seem pretty used to this kind of transaction .”

“You would be surprised,” the man replied with a wink.

Minty was unsure if that would be a good surprise or a bad one.

The man returned her debit card then opened his desk drawer and took

out some keys and a remote control. He rose and gestured for Minty to

follow him out of the office. Opening a side door, the man walked down a

long, narrow hallway, it’s walls painted white like every other surface Minty

had seen in the building except for his gray metal desk and the light gray

linoleum office floor.

The hallway stopped at a large gray metal door, the man raised and

clicked the remote in his hand as they stood in front of the door. The door

rose with a surprisingly soft ‘whirr’ and the man led Minty down another

corridor. Minty was shocked to see the walls were painted a soft, sage

green — she felt as though she was beneath a forest canopy, tunneling

towards some secret , hidden place of refuge.

“Just a few steps more,” the man announced as he continued to lead

Minty along the corridor.

“And, here we are,” the man said a few moments later.

Minty glanced to her left and then her right, not certain where ‘here’ was.

The man raised his remote again and clicked. This time the featureless ,

green corridor revealed a slight opening lined with darkness.

“This will be your storage space, “ the man explained. “Would you like to

choose a specific hue of ambient light for the space , or would you prefer

darkness?”

Minty instinctively blurred out her response ,” Blue, ocean blue, like I’m

looking up towards the light filtering through the water.”

“That will be just fine,” the man offered. He pressed a button on his

remote , Minty heard it click as he opened the door to her unit further. The

small space was the size of a hallway coat closet.

Peering inside, Minty could see the walls blush from plain white to a

luminous ‘ocean blue’ — exactly as she had imagined.

“You may enter the unit now,” the man said as he moved away from

Minty. “I will leave you and return in 15 minutes, if you need to leave

your unit sooner simply knock on any wall and I will be here

instantaneously.”

“Thank you”, Minty replied as she stepped into the unit and heard the

door whir, then click closed behind her.

Minty closed her eyes, willing her self to relax and find a moment of

calm. She allowed her mind to fill with thoughts of her life up to this

moment. Feelings of isolation, sadness, perfunctory functioning, surviving,

the search for reason, the meaning of it all. She needed to leave it. Could

no longer carry it with her if she wanted to keep living in the world of the

good , the bad, the indifferent.

Opening her eyes, Minty’s eyes focused on the blue walls, searching for

the luminosity that seemed to permeate the small space. She took a deep

breath , then exhaled forcefully, breathed in again, exhaled and let her

shoulders drop. Tension flowed from her neck and back , it seemed to

be leaving her body through the top of her head. Minty held her hands

down and out to her sides, leaving her body vulnerable to the light and her

breathing. A gentle tug started low in her chest, quickly transforming into a

tight knot that made her heart pound and race. Minty gasped and heard a

low moan escape from her mouth. She stumbled back and felt the wall hit

her, she was pushed back against the wall, moaning in earnest and

reeling from the knot in her chest. It was burning her from the inside out

and Minty instinctively knew it was going to leave her.

Her self came out of her body as Minty screamed a guttural , body

wrenching scream.

The light in the room was her only point of focus. It softened and

seemed to wash over Minty’s body, like an ocean wave releasing it’s hold

as Minty made her way back to shore.

Minty straightened her body and felt the lightness, sensing her ‘old’ self

floating away into the blue. A single tear slid down her cheek as Minty

held onto her lightness.

Minty heard a soft whir as the unit’s door opened slightly. She was

unsure how much time had passed. Stepping through the door and into

the hallway, Minty was silently greeted by the man. He raised his remote

and the door to the unit whirred shut. Minty caught one last glimpse of the

blue interior and its luminous contents.

She quietly followed the man down the green corridor, into the white

hallway, back into the office.

“Thank you for choosing us for self storage,” the man gestured towards

the front door as Minty moved away. “Feel free to return whenever you

would like to visit, or, if you wish to discuss other options.”

“Thank you,” Minty replied as she opened the front door and stepped

out into the bright light of spring.

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Cynthia Joy Cooper

Cynthia Joy Cooper

Empty Nester, dog/cat mom, runner, paddle boarder, lover of soup and seafood.