The charm of grocery shopping in my small hometown was lost on me today. My daughter had to have her gall bladder removed in the wee hours this morning and as a result of her gall bladder attack and the emergency surgery – I’ve slept for about 12 minutes during the last two days.
I needed to run in and out of the local Publix to pick-up her meds and a few items on the short-list of foods she can eat.
Had I walked into the same grocery store in Miami (where I live) I would have finished in 10 to 14 but in Key West it turned into a 45-minute exercise in “How the hell are ya?”
Miss Ana was having a cigarette just outside the entrance when she saw me walk up the steps. She waved me over, hugged and kissed me and started lamenting how much she misses her husband and how awful it is to reach for him and realize he’s no longer there. Her husband, a good man, has been dead 17 years. She asked how long I was going to be in town and to be sure to come over for key lime pie some night.
Down aisle 11 (Bread and crackers – “er” crackers not “a” cracka) I ran into Christina – a childhood friend who until 4 years ago I’d known as Christopher. Seeing him/her is still jarring and after a brief “catch-up” he/she asked how long I was going to be in town and to be sure to come over for drinks some night.
In the frozen food section Julio and his wife Dunia were shopping for frozen yucca from Costa Rica when they spotted me. They came over straight away, hugs and kisses all around and they showed me just picked-up photos of their newest great-grandchild. They asked how long I was going to be in town and to be sure and tell my mom to come over for coffee some night (I wasn’t invited.)
On my way to the check-out line I walked past the bakery counter and someone called me by my proper Christian name – when I turned, a man I did not recognize walked toward me extending his rubber-gloved right hand. After shaking he wanted to know if my mom had scheduled her cataract surgery (she has) and to be sure and tell her which are the best post-operative drops. His name is Jose – I’m still not sure how he knew who I was.
A high-school friend’s daughter bagged my groceries – she recognized me from her brother’s and my nephew’s combined high-school graduation party three years before and as she bagged my store-bought loaf of Cuban-bread she reminded me how much everyone still misses my family’s bakeries’ Cuban bread (after almost 30 years in operation – the bakeries have been closed for almost 7, clearly they made an impact.)
I declined the grocery bagger’s offer to wheel my groceries to the car and literally bumped into Miss Ana yet again for a quick good-bye hug.
Ordinarily, I’d enjoy the Kafka-esque qualities of the day. Today was not that day. Did I mention I’m on 12 minutes of sleep.