It’s almost 10 o’clock at night. Long day. I stop by the neighborhood grocery store to get some stuff for breakfast tomorrow. Lunches for the boys too.
The woman at the till knows me, she always asks how I am and she’s never satisfied with just my words. She scans my face when I say “Good.” A blunt answer. She tilts her head. “Really?” … Busted. “No, not really if you have to know. Had better ones.” She smiles. You don’t have to keep it in… Even though I can, I’m ready to tell her. The self-pity cloth is a heavy one, never liked it much and I am too proud to wear it in plain view. Not today it looks like. Some people just know to ask and it does not feel like self-pity to say it as it is. Just real. One day we might talk some more. For now it’s the looks. I know, been there… hang in there, some days suck and that’s that. The girl from the other till hears us, there’s barely anyone else in the store. “Tough day?” she asks. I nod. Full admission. Somehow I feel not exposed but taken care of. We know each other, short exchanges between warm croissants and vanilla yogurt. Funny how we anchor ourselves to people that way. We move through places and times anchored so storms like the one today will break their ugly claws before hurting. It feels like that.
Exhale, shoulders drop, no more triple pleated armor clonking too close to my head. It gets loud sometimes, you know. I’m ready to leave the store now. Good night, it was good that I came in. I mean it. Wait, don’t go yet.
“Where are the cookies? Get the cookies!” Till forgotten, the girl runs to the safe where they keep wallets and such. And cookies, it turns out. A box of cookies grows in front of me. Smiles. Have one. Chocolate-wrapped cookies. They feel soft and buttery. Refined sugar and raw thoughts tumble into my body to be taken apart. I take a bite and the heavy afternoon drops on the floor breaking into a million pieces. I hear the loud bang and the two women hear it too! Anytime you need one… I know that, I’ll remember that.
One day soon we’ll have coffee by the tree where they take their break, it’ll be good. With cookies, my treat. Chocolate-wrapped or not.