I first notice her between the bananas and the piles of crisp Fuji apples. I catch a glimpse of her long, straight auburn hair and wonder if it’s her, but I need three English cucumbers, and I’m distracted by the bright green mint and beautiful flat-leaf parsley. How is everything still so fresh and abundant in this drought? It’s probably best that I don’t know, and I suppose not everything is from California.
I remember she told me how much she loves shopping in supermarkets in the U.S. Plentiful produce, clean floors, organized shelves.
I turn back toward the cart with my cucumbers and see she is no longer there. I breathe an almost inaudible sigh of relief and shake my head at myself.
This unsociable version of me is new and not all that welcome. Not because she is more reserved and quieter than usual, and not because she would rather be home alone than almost anywhere these days. This is unlike me, but I understand it can happen with age and circumstance and lots of children around all the time. Introspection and inward focus are good things. I’m okay with it. For now.
Antisocial me is unwelcome because she displays a reluctance to greet people she’s recently met. A reluctance, an almost-fear, to meet new people, and a strong desire to blend into the leaves of lettuce and kale for fear of being recognized. If only she were wearing green.
What has me worried and bewildered is that I may be perceived as rude and aloof. Or worse, snooty and unfriendly. The large crowd at the event the other night overwhelmed and frightened me and I stood alone, half-hidden behind a pillar in my brightly colored dress. Silently I prayed nobody would notice me. Nobody would notice me being rude and unfriendly, because how would they know that it was because I was terrified of saying hi to someone new? Terrified to introduce myself to a stranger and embark on a conversation, a connection. Even though it might turn out to be wonderful. The colorful, social butterfly that loves to flit amongst new flowers is suddenly fearful. The flowers look daunting and enormous, and what if she laughs too loud or not at all?
I met the woman with the long red hair just three days ago. She and her family are new to town, and she is lovely and friendly. They’ve been living abroad and she seems excited and happy to be back here, close to family and stores that are clean and convenient.
I don’t remember her name but how welcoming and friendly it would be if I walked up to her in the supermarket. Reintroduced myself and asked about her day, her kids. Connected over the brilliantly red strawberries or the boxes of Capri Sun. Five, seven minutes, at the most, of hello and how are you and a smile.
Of course, it’s possible she is feeling as antisocial as I am. Maybe she doesn’t want an almost stranger interrupting her solitude and thoughts. That is possible, but I can’t know for sure.
What I know is that I don’t want to say hello. And I’m disappointed in myself.
I wander around the store, tossing pasta and the organic two percent milk we are always running out of into the cart. Oh good, they have those new yogurt squeezables the kids have been asking for. Of course I forget the cream cheese, which is what I came to the supermarket for in the first place.
I find the shortest checkout line and unload my groceries. I look up from the cart and there she is again, in line right next to me. This is my chance! I can redeem myself, and be the warm, welcoming person I want to be. I take a breath. I open my mouth. The “hi” sticks in my throat and will go no further. It’s a good thing she’s not looking at me.
Suddenly I can’t wait to get home, to unpack all of this, and leave my rudeness in the cereal aisle where it belongs.
I will be back at the supermarket soon enough (probably tomorrow since I forgot the cream cheese). Fresh produce and a fresh start.
This is a Finish the Sentence Friday post, inspired by the prompt, “It started in the line at the grocery store…” Hosted by Kristi from Finding Ninee, and co-hosted by Dawn (this week’s sentence thinker-upper), and me here at Red Boots.