The grocery store is actually just a hop skip and a jump from where I live, with the hopping and skipping and jumping over snowbanks, and then carefully making ones way across the icy ground, left over from the freezing rain we had the day before, adding a layer of crunchy frosting to everything.
Say I forget ginger like I did the other night, a simple trip through the 4 to 5-foot snowdrifts, and on through the little path my fellow pedestrians have made through one of the smaller mounds of the white shite that ring the parking lot I go. Oh, of course, after the 5 minute routine of a coat, hat, scarf, and tying up of the boots.
Generally, I guess you could say I have to really want it, whatever it is, to bother.
So last night I venture over, for the ONE thing I forgot. The store was practically empty and so I figured it would be a wham, bam, thank you TK and off back through the mounds of snow I go.
Yeah, not so fast. Making my way I noticed a woman with few groceries on the counter, as I stood behind her in line.
Long dirty blond hair under a ball cap, cropped in the front and a ponytail down her back to her waist, skinny black jeans tucked into black ratty boots that had seen better days, with her two pee holes in the snow makeup (as my Mom would have described her eyes) turned my way. She looked to be a few years older than me, but who can really tell when you’ve been ridden hard and put away wet.
On the counter, she had all her bases covered Hunt’s spaghetti sauce, three bananas, no name coffee, peanut butter, strawberry jam, a loaf of white wonder bread, bagged 1% milk.
“Are you walking or driving“, TK asks her.
“Driving”, she responds.
The total rings up, and she hands a card over, “gift card, and whatever the rest is I’ll do with cash”, quietly.
With the bills clutched, the coins fall from her hand and onto the metal plate in front of her, she counts out loud, “1, 2, 3”, and a coin rolls off, falling to the dirty linoleum, followed by another, and another, and my heart pours out onto the floor between us. My worst nightmare made real before my eyes, and god knows I’ve had those movements, flustered when I had to count change. Blessed be debit cards.
Up until then, I had every reason to believe I’d be home in no time, but as the moments stretched, became two, three, more change falls off the counter, and I can see she is getting even more flustered, and having a harder time counting the scattered change before her, “seven”, pause, “eight”, and another coin rolls off.
At this point TK bends to pick up the strays from the floor and says here sweetheart, that’s 25, 50, 75 and proceeds to count the rest out for her.
She turns her coal-black eyes my way, gauging my reaction, as I erase every scrap of impatience from my countenance. I manufacture a smile from the depths and strike the “I’m in no hurry, take your time” pose. Calm, collected, I can wait, and be thankful I don’t have the remaining dollars to my name clutched in my hand at the cashier, buying the cheapest of everything, counting every dime and penny as precious, because it was me last week.
The persons behind me grew in number, and I could begin to hear the rumbling of frustration, and I’m thinking in my head shhhhhh.
Once TK had her all sorted, and her groceries paid for, bagged, clutching a twenty and a five, she asks very quietly as if she’s embarrassed to say it, “what are the cheapest small pack of smokes?”.
The exchange probably took no more than 10 minutes.
She bends to take a bag in each hand, and off she goes, home to wherever that may be.
The whole time I’m running scenarios in my head, as I often do. Wondering what her story was. Recovering drug addict? Health issues? Just out of jail? Just out of a bad relationship? Starting over? Who knows.
This area is rather coveted, and finding cheap rentals is the holy grail. Most of the shoppers one encounters wear expensive boots, trendy coats, and generally you shop here if a) you are wealthy, b) don’t care because it’s close, or c) you need to pop out for just that “one or two things” you forgot. A few grand old piles line the side streets, with quaint shops up and down the way, the pub, the organic store, the bistro, two coffee houses, a boutique and so forth.
From her groceries and the fact she paid with a gift card, I wouldn’t imagine she shops here that often, as this grocery store has the reputation of being the most expensive in town. I wondered if she’d just moved, but either way, she seemed like she felt out-of-place. Something about her oozed out-of-place, not from here, and she seemed nervous even before she went to pay, kept looking around, pacing a little arc as she waited for the person ahead of her.
TK, I’ve heard, has been at that store forever and lives in the hood, just a couple of streets over. She’s from Newfoundland, and I don’t know what you’ve heard, but the stories they tell about the kind heart of those islanders is no lie. She made her feel at ease, and I expected nothing less, as she treats everyone as though they are a beloved regular, with a kindness and patience I have come to admire in the 5 years I have lived here in The Village.
As I made my way home, up and over the giant drifts, landing with ease upon the icy ground, my thoughts were of what I had witnessed.
It is these moments in time, the ones that seem to be drawn out, sprinkled with little details that most people rarely if ever stop for. These moments when time slows and you know you are witnessing something special, something important. When someone does not have to be gracious and many cashiers would have huffed and puffed and blew the slight waif of a woman down to the level I’ve no doubt she is familiar with.
So, sitting back here in my chair, in the comfort of my home, going over the events that had just transpired, wondering again what her story was, and I realize I forgot to buy a fricken lighter. Well, not worth it, I am NOT going out again, and blessed be gas stoves.