Deep in thought, the woman in a wool coat and patterned scarf wheeled the cart slowly along the aisle, her pace and demeanour no different from any other mid-day shopper.
I ought to phone my mother. I need to get some washing done. Why didn’t I put some laundry in before I left? The living room needs cleaning. I should call Michelle back. Why did I park so crookedly? I’m so embarrassed at forgetting Suzie’s name. I shouldn’t have eaten that chocolate, I’ve got to resist that in future. I must do my taxes soon. I need to start looking for another job, I can procrastinate forever on things like that. Why didn’t I get real milk? I shouldn’t be using this artificial stuff. I bet it’s bad for the environment, too. Look at all that packaging! How could I let myself buy such junk? God, this checkout line is moving slowly. Why do I always pick the one with the trainee cashier?
“That’s a nice scarf, where’s it from?” said a voice behind her. She turned to see a tall man in a denim jacket. It was old, but he wore it as if by choice, not necessity.
“Oh, it’s nothing much. My sister gave it to me.” she replied.
“It looks Guatemalan to me,” he continued, “when I was down there, every village had its own weaving patterns.”
She wondered what to say. Guatemala. It didn’t sound like he’d gone on a tourist package, he didn’t look like that kind of person. He must have gone by himself. She could never do that. “Oh, really?” she said.
“Yes, and those deep reds are typical of the Northern region.”
He was looking at her with such interest; she had forgotten what that was like. “Oh, they don’t really go with this coat.” she replied.
“Not at all, they set it off very well.”
“That’s 31 72,” said the cashier, and in her nervousness, the woman dropped her purse on the counter, spilling coins, a movie stub and two sea-shells. She gathered them up, feeling at the same time acutely embarrassed and yet relieved at not having to respond to his directness.
“Bye!” he said, as she wheeled the cart away. He smiled, but the entire encounter was so unexpected that she could only return a token grin.
Why did I rush off like that? I should be more open to such things. I wonder what he saw in me. Why didn’t I ask anything about him? I always imagine this kind of thing, and when it happens, I blow it. If it had happened to Michelle, she’d be having coffee with him by now. He had nice hands. I bet he likes cats. His voice was so soothing. I’ll never see him again. Even if I did, he wouldn’t try again. I bet he thought I was an idiot. Perhaps he just liked the scarf. It’s all my fault.