I just went to the corner store for something sweet. Whenever I’m either catching or nursing a cold, my appetite blossoms and I crave the sticky, tart hand-size dessert pies of my youth.
As I clutched the pie in my hand and surveyed the rest of the items on the shelf, I caught sight of the store owner/cashier staring in my direction, not smiling, not frowning, not anything.
I gave a quick, “Hey, how are you?” and she just kept staring blankly ahead, at nothing or no one despite my greeting. It bothered me but not the fact that she ignored me. It was the fact that she looked so out of it.
When I approached the front counter with my pie, she woke up, leaving me wondering if I had imagined it all. When she handed me the change, I tried again: “Have a nice day.”
“Thank you, you too,” she replied this time.
Once the door shut behind me and I found myself out in the sunshine again, I realized that she was still inside. Like she had probably been all day, on this extraordinarily sunny day after almost two straight weeks of rain and precipitation.
I felt a twinge of guilt and gratitude mixed, remembering the times I was stuck inside working at a coffee shop on Saturdays and Sundays when I was in high school so that I could save up enough to buy my own clothes and not have to pester my parents, who had bigger things to worry about like the leaking kitchen ceiling and missed mortgage payments.
Was it fair that now I, an adult, have the weekends off to walk in the sunshine clutching a small Hostess apple pie in my hands and that she, as an adult, still doesn’t? Or is this her first job after years of watching the kids while her husband (who owns the store) worked?
Maybe these are her “coffee shop” days and she’s looking forward to having Saturdays to roam with a piece of pie in hand in her near future too?
It makes me want to know her story, to gather the pieces that come together to present a picture of someone who stood behind a counter looking so lost amid aisles crammed with food and beverages.
Maybe I’ll write a story about her one day. Or maybe I just did.