It's like Oprah works here, only she's twenty-one, throws barbs, and knows the place like a heartbeat.
Her large, brown eyes glance at me from u-scan, maybe twenty-feet away, as I step in out of the snow, pull my beanie off, and clock in, typing into a register.
I nod mornin' as she turns and steps slow and tall, nearing me as she takes a sip from her Starbucks, her dregs quick, long gone, with something else in place.
She smiles softly, with that wicked wit she knows as a human right: "Hey, Charlie."
Over twenty minutes I made a series of one and two minute phone calls between several relatives, back and forth, many I hardly knew or had not seen ... handling things. At some point I even heard Uncle Paul laugh, except sounding pleased. I end up incidentally with a correct number. I had tried to call earlier but the house has no land line.
"Are you okay ... "
"Are you okay?"
"Everything is good."
"When you first joined I had a hysterectomy," she says. "I was asked how I had managed with such ... problems. I felt I had ruined everyone's life."
Actually I have been in over my head but then didn't care anymore. She mentions a book, but calls it a novel. "I'll probably never read it." She pauses sometimes. I wonder if she is still there.
"It was not written to be read," I reply.
"I was devastated ... "
"Mom ..." I tell her, trying to explain ... aloneness. "We were heavyweights."
(tenth grocery aisle)
Overhearing a woman talking to someone, maybe an older woman, I continue stocking cans.
“He comes to the restaurant, for breakfast mostly,” she says. “I think when he wants to eat alone.”
“The cook likes him,” the woman continues. “Can barely see or hear and only sees him through the window across the aisle between the bar and the kitchen.”
Their cart moves slightly.
In my peripheral, her mother, maybe, maybe grandmother, bends to inspect and feel some cans on my side of the aisle.
“It still has those backless stools running up to the register,” someone says softly.
“He seems to love her food,” the younger woman continues, a waitress at the restaurant around the corner from the apartment where I live. “Goes there when he has time to eat. We call him, the bachelor.”
Someone laughs soft and auto, like the sound of heavy velvet.
“But I think she likes him because of the way he'll hold his head sometimes, like a boy with a bald head,” the younger woman says faintly with a laugh. “Anyway, the cook thinks he's blonde.”
I have to write it now because it is the moment when I learned how literature becomes oral history. I was to meet Brock, an old friend from Rustic. The plans were canceled when I got arrested in the “drum circle.” The waitresses at the restaurant call it by its actual name, but none of the four streets surrounding it are that name. I stood in the middle of the circle of concrete, surrounded by the grass, boulders, and square of sidewalks amidst blue mountains, tall, nineteen twenties deco buildings, and the chess tables just inside the west sidewalk, then traded a guy two cigarettes for use of his cellphone, so as to try and call Brock. When I gave the guy his phone back, I turned to give a guy waiting at the light in a black Acura, a cigarette, because he asked. After finishing smoking with the homeless guy with a cell phone, I stepped back into the main circle of the park, and am arrested full on.
All the cops have to say is, “You're awfully calm for someone in so much trouble.”