While in line at Trader Joe’s in Encino, I saw a woman holding something in her left hand and what could only be a 4-pack of ginger beer in her right hand as I looked at nothing, knowing that I had, once again, gotten in the slowest checkout line. The family of four I’d avoided getting behind has gotten through already. Ug. Maybe it was the pale, strangely coifed cashier. Maybe he was slow.
I toyed with my short necklace as if I were patient and self-loving.
“How long have you had that necklace?”
It was the ginger beer woman who had made her way through the shoppers gathering a late dinner in this tiny Trader Joe’s.
“Oh, about 2 years,” remembering that lunch date with Ed in Tucson in the fall.
The ginger beer woman got in line behind me.
“That line’s going to be faster,” I said, indicating the one to the right that was just finishing up the family of four, all with dyed black hair, the father with dreads down his back.
“Everybody’s in such a hurry,” she said, not budging.
“I’m not in a hurry as much as I don’t want to be spending my time in line.”
“I met my husband at a grocery store.”
“Oh good,” I thought. “Maybe the man who would marry a woman who buys ginger beer will be rendezvousing with her in line, jar of marinated mushrooms in one hand and half-flat of tangerines under his arm. Maybe he’ll be cute. It’s been ages since I talked to a cute guy,” I thought in that instant between words.
“We weren’t IN line though. We met IN the parking lot of a grocery store,” she explained.
I pictured the meeting in the angry, small TJ’s parking lot outside. I could understand how someone could fall in love in such a violent, undersized place.
“He got out of his car, and I told him ‘I’m going to marry you,’ and I did. We fell in love and got married. Then he got shot. By a gun.”
My cashier was telling the lady that she should try the, did I hear this right, the 4-cheese and how it was different from the 3-cheese. He’s pulling the box with the frozen disk out of the grocery bag! It is his fault, that de-bagger. Smile with reservation.
“When you said shot, I assumed it was with a gun,” I thought, “this being LA and all. A bow and arrow had not crossed my mind,” I silently continued.
Smile vaguely now, so that she doesn’t see that you know she’s a crackpot.
I knew from the sorrow in her voice that the shot was fatal.
“It’s all very sad and I don’t like to talk about it very often,” was what I was hoping, and thinking would be decorous, she would close with. Yes, I had the thoughts of yelling, “Then why are you talking about it with me?” but didn’t.
“And when they had to evacuate the court house, and I set off the alarm because of a tack in my shoe…”
She had seemed like a nice lady when I saw her walking with her groceries. I was pleasantly surprised when she asked me about my necklace. Now I see that she was hitting on me. I am too young for her, a thought confirmed when she turned to get into the vacancy in the shorter line. I could see the roots in the back of her hair. Too much gray. What was she thinking?
At least at this point we were two strangers not interacting again.
My cashier was friendly, but misunderstood when I said, “Just one bag please” when I had a quantity that would clearly fit in one bag. As he started to double bag the first bag, I simply repeated, “Just one bag please.”
Am I insane?