I was angry that night, and the way I carelessly moved my decorative pillows off my bed made that very apparent.

It was a quiet Monday night, much like any other of my Monday nights. I was sitting at my couch with my laptop placed over my crossed legs, straining for words in my mind that I needed to put on a blank word document. A boy I hadn’t talked to in a while sent me a message on a dating app, bringing me out of what was starting to feel like a wordless abyss. He was planning on being in my area of town, and he asked me if I wanted to meet him for a drink. It was already almost midnight, and I knew I needed to rinse off the dried sweat from the cardio I did earlier that night, but I didn’t want to pass it up. He had a nice face, I was quite into his body (which is for all to see, thanks to his profile photo being him in his underwear) and we always had conversations that weren’t so surface level. Though going out to drink on a Monday wasn’t something I planned on doing, a spontaneous date with a guy I was interested in for several months felt like the right path to take.

Turns out, some lady in his neighborhood rear-ended him as he was pulling out of his driveway.

I can’t be mad at him for getting rear-ended, but I was mad at the ridiculous twist of fate that got him rear-ended thirty minutes before we were supposed to meet. I felt that he said that just to bail without saying he didn’t really want to meet up with me, but I took his words for what they were. I wasn’t about to be that guy to someone I hadn’t even met.

Soon after, I felt myself scrambling to find a sense of company. I couldn’t get over feeling like I had just been ditched, and I could feel loneliness starting to brush its nails against my skin. That’s when I decided to send a message to a guy who I had spent time with, before. He was free, and we made plans for him to come by my place for a bit. He said he would shower before heading over, and I decided to rinse the workout from earlier off of me. Shortly after getting out of the shower and into a clean t-shirt and a pair of joggers, I looked down at my phone, a text flashing across the screen saying that he was “too tired” to come over after showering.

Loneliness broke the skin, and I could feel comfort bleeding out.

I was hurt, and I felt that I had no business being hurt. If only my facial cleanser washed away the the sting of rejection, and my toothbrush could brush away the taste of feeling too bland to be good company, maybe I could have gone to bed that feeling less like a waste of space. I found myself in a downward spiral containing these thoughts, and the further down I went, the more angry I became. It got to the point where I groaned about the pillow I moved off of my bed hitting the alarm clock on my nightstand, and knocking something smaller onto the ground.

It was a penny. I never put pennies on my nightstand.

My older brother is superstitious about pennies, and considering the types of situations where we tend to find them, I am, as well. The penny is supposed to represent a loved one reminding us that they’re there with us, a gentle reminder to take a breath, and reassess. He says that any time he’s been worried about a current situation that he was in, he would find a penny somewhere in the room, usually in a place you would never expect to see one. Judging by how he’s experienced finding pennies, it didn’t happen very much until after his mother-in-law passed, which was only the first of many family members who passed away from then until now. Now, he seems to find them in many situations where we’re stressed, concerned, or just feeling some lack of comfort.

One time, he found a penny in one of the bedrooms in my mom’s old house when we were almost done moving everything out. Most recently, he found a penny on the floor of the bounce house place where my niece had her seventh birthday party, soon after he mentioned that some of the kids were there without their parents, as if they just dropped them off and left. My sister-in-law also finds them, and the strangest incident she had was when she found pennies in a straight line behind her car in an outlet mall parking lot, shortly after having a disagreement with my brother. They always find them during a time when they’re thrown off balance.

I don’t find them often, but I instantly thought of my mom when I saw that penny on my bedroom floor.

I thought of what she would have said, if she saw me getting angry in that moment. She probably would have told me that there would be other boys, and not to get so upset. Me assuming the worst of both boys who flaked out on me felt very much like something she would have done, and I keep wondering if that’s why her support manifested so readily in that penny. I could just picture her saying, “honey, I’ve been in the same boat as you,” with a bit of “get a grip, Jeff,” in her tone.

She was reminding me that this cycle of thoughts was not reflective of myself.

I wish I could say that it’s in my nature not to let something as silly as men get under my skin so much, but it’s happened too many times before. My balance felt thrown off by feeling so undesirable, and seeing that penny reminded me that moments of imbalance do not have to define me; they can remind me how to keep myself from falling down. I am not defined by being bailed on two times in a row. I am not defined by a man’s inability to commit to a plan. I am not defined by a temporary moment of feeling weak, vulnerable, and like my life will be a constant stream of being abandoned by people I wish would see that I have something to offer. I am not comprised solely of that moment where I, with exasperation, dragged my pillow off of my bed and carelessly threw off the balance of my nightstand.

I’m keeping that penny for nights like this.