Tuesday, April 28, 2009

the situation you find yourself in

Say you need something. Late at night you need something:
a box of band aids, a quart of milk, shaving cream, razor blades.
It doesn’t matter what. Just the fact of your need. So you drive
to the grocery store in a modest sized city. Anywhere.
You’re there at night getting whatever it is you need to get.
Life is settling in on you. Now you've got what it is you need,
now you're waiting in line. The cashier is doing her thing,
checking the items of the guy in front of you, she does it efficiently
enough. A little grimly you think to yourself. You hear a voice,
behind you, it takes a second for you to realize the voice
is pointed at you. “Excuse me, pal.” You turn around.
He stands looking directly at you. His face is narrow,
slightly worn. Well, he is slightly worn. Not too tall,
thin and used up. He stands there holding a large
pack of diapers. He says, “Do you mind if I cut in front?
I got a taxi waiting. I need to get out quick.” Before
you answer he's already moving in front of you.
You think, okay, the guy needs diapers, needs
to get them home quickly. You know what that is like,
how desperate it can get on the home front, maybe being
new to the job of raising a baby, how your life seems turned over,
how responsibility seems to pursue you, maybe how love
itself seems to have loosened its grip on you. And you step up
and find it in yourself to pay attention to what is needed,
what you need to do. If it means late-night runs to the grocery
store for diapers, then so be it. You do what is asked of you
by the situation you find yourself in. Well, this is what
you were thinking, standing in line, waiting to pay.
Then you snap out of it and focus on what is going on
directly before you. You see the guy arguing with the cashier.
You see her take the diapers and drop them behind her.
You see her turn to her register, you see her open the drawer,
reach in and pull out some bills and then some change.
She hands this to the guy, who licks his lips. He turns,
looks calmly at you with a smirk on his god damn face!
He leaves the store, nearly running to his waiting taxi.
And you realize no one in the history of the universe
has ever exchanged unused diapers for a cash refund
with a cab outside and meter running. Not ever. No one.
A different scene comes to mind. Somewhere a woman
paces the length of a shabby apartment. Cursing.
His name is Pitcairn. That gone, used-up guy. Pitcairn.

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