I am standing in the grocery line.Beep. Beep. Beep. Beep. Beep. Beep. Beep. Beep.

I am standing in the grocery line. The only thing whiter than the lights is the store. The woman in front of me leans on her cart, elbows out. The smell is of plastic and rubber, erased.

I am standing in the grocery line. The boy at the register has hair of that length that falls between long and short, the length that has to be brushed back by the hand consistently. A length that should be banned in the grocery store for I have arrived home more than once to find a medium-length hair embedded in the cellophane of my chicken wrapping, trying to worm its way into the breast.

I am standing in the grocery line. I sigh audibly. The cashier glances at me, not without malice, and I resent his malice for interfering with the demands placed on him by the objects lined on his conveyor belt. I stare at him, at his repetitive swing of objects through the crimson laser. Beep. Beep. Beep. I stare until I begin to doubt that I in fact ever saw the boy look at me, in the same way that you may doubt the shout of an unseen entity across the silence of a marbled room, so brash it is, so generative the mind. Perhaps it is my malice that has generated such a memory.

I am standing in the grocery line. My left shoe is stuck, not irretrievably, to the floor. I lift my foot and feel my shoe remain behind. I sigh once more. I let the shoe lie.

I am standing in the grocery line. By this point I am under the distinct impression that the boy behind the register is watching me. I know how it is done: it is actually possible to change the area of attention within one’s sight without altering the direction of one’s gaze. A heat has descended over me, particularly my forearms, which I have crossed and gripped (cold palms) in front of my body. Just barely in the boy’s peripheral vision.

I am standing in the grocery line. I squint. Hi, his name is DAVID.

I am standing in the grocery line. David hands the receipt to his present customer and turns to the woman in front of me. Despite her cart, she has only one item to purchase today. She leans heavily upon the plastic handle, looking forward, not at David.

I could swear this David boy is staring at me now, as I pretend to evaluate the heavyset woman. She takes her gauze pads and receipt in her hand and lumbers forward. Now I am certain that the boy behind the register is eyeing me. Unabashed, this time. A sweltering presence. I turn to him.

I am standing in the grocery line. David asks how I am today. He does not blink. I have not once seen him blink. Perhaps I have never seen another person blink in the entirety of my life. Perhaps this is an oversight.

I am standing in the grocery line. I am fine. That’s good, David says. He smirks, and takes my frosted, liter-size ice cream in his hot palm. Do you need a bag? he asks, and looks now at the canvas bag crushed in my fist.

I am standing in the grocery line. I am fine. I am fine.

I am standing in the grocery line, and David takes my hand.

 

 

 

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© Dennis James Sweeney