The Grocery Store

Inspired in part by Daily Post and their “Moment of Clarity” prompt from 12/27/13. It’s a bit first-draft-y but I wanted to get something published today.

During the day the grocery is an assortment of too thin older women with smeared eyeliner, young women with the broken look that settles into the features of every new mother, and lost elderly men. I float between them like a ghost, past the perfectly coiffed old lady with dazzling red lipstick who always elicits a smile, around toddlers squirming out of a car-shaped cart, and between teenaged boys stocking shelves directly in front of something I need to buy. I almost walk into all of them, every time; I’m so busy watching them that I can’t see them.

Once in a while there is someone who seems awake roaming the aisles. Today a teenager slinks past, just a boy, with a pushed up nose and soft cheeks that make him look like a piglet. His hair falls around his shoulders in greasy, brown ringlets, sitting on the shoulders of an oversize camouflage jacket. He’s wearing jeans and combat boots, and he isn’t carrying a basket.

I glide past him to the checkout and, as I’m loading my meager haul onto the conveyor belt, I can see him out of the corner of my eye. He looks like he wants to get into my lane and I can feel him wanting to talk to me. There must have been a sense of solidarity that I put out, my unkempt blond hair a mess, tumbled over my black hooded sweatshirt. There was something about me, in the grocery, something that seemed flippantly defiant in contrast to all the other vacant-eyed shoppers, that was drawing him in.

This is when I decide to drive him away with body language, shifting myself so my back is aggressively toward him, and when he doesn’t move I decide to get more overt, cleaning used tissues out of my pockets and sorting receipts that I find into the trash behind the adjacent checkout lane. When I look up from my grooming he has disappeared and been replaced by the old man I saw staring at a wall of barbecue sauce in aisle five. I celebrate my victory in silence.

Outside I pull the hood over my head to protect me from the cold, misty rain that is falling from the winter sky. Driving toward my apartment I see him again, his giant clothes making him look like a little boy, his hands stuffed in his pockets for warmth as he crosses the street in the rain. I wonder if he needed money to buy bread, if he had stolen soup for his mother, I finally ask myself why he was alone in the grocery. As his figure disappears from my rear view mirror I realize that I want to know everything about him.

First draft 1/2/14
Revised 1/3/14

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