I go out to the bodega at two a.m. when I know Fresh Garden is still selling booze until three. A month late on rent, I also know I can come up with some believable excuse to excuse my delinquency. Nine years living in this same digs, and if anything counts for anything, I have never been late, and I believe in that more than anything at all.
I am the only one on the street tonight, it is Sunday, no Monday by now, nice part of Brooklyn, hipster Brooklyn, and I, as a girl in a black lace dress and knee-high boots, don’t even try to slow down my usual strut. The late shift guy hands me a basket as I come in, tells me my hair, recently streaked caramel looks nice. I almost tell him I have been awake three days straight but ask instead if cantaloupe is in season.
“Yes, yes,” he says, lifting a small one up for my offer. “Sweet and fresh.”
I take two, lick the dirty skin of one, wink, and then also grab a plastic tub of shredded beets.
I eye tomatoes I know will rot on my kitchen counters. Same with the rainbow chard and fresh blueberries. Back in some days, I used to make all this into a morning smoothie with lots of kale and a scoop of chia seeds. Those days I shit the healthy kind, daily, solid. Oprah told me how to examine a good shit from a bad one. These days, I buy it all and let the mold flower in the fridge. I do not examine my shit.
“Where is A?” The usual shift guy, whose name after seven years living here I still don’t know, because I am shy to the point of agoraphobic and he does not look at me for reasons I can’t ask, mutters, “Out back. Resting. A break, you know.”
According to most of my family I have also been on a break for five years now.
I make my way to the beer aisle which is the whole and sole reason we all–nameless clerk, A, and the checkout woman up front–know I have come in, Sunday/Monday night/two a.m. I Googled the liquor law before bothering to cross the street. They can sell to me until three a.m. It was 2:35, so I got dressed, put on a hat (winter weather, thank god), boots, no socks, and only locked the bottom lock of the door to my apartment. If anyone bothers to break in, best luck finding anything I have not already heart-holdingly let go.
In aisle four I find Flying Dog’s Snake Dog IPA. It has the highest ALC/VOL. I buy two packs because it is all I can carry–not all I can drink. I buy a few Granny Smiths, a batch of kale, some sprouted bread for balance.
I ask the checkout woman, who gives me, even at this nutty hour, the warmest grin, “How is A?” Her lips slacken and her eyes turn from warm to “I’ve never seen you before, how dare you.” She rings up my contraband.
Price tag is $34.95 and I give her my debit card. She double-bags my bags. She knows to hold the merchant copy of the receipt for me to sign because, after seven years, she knows I only ever use one arm.
I want to ask one last time, or say, one last time, “How is/say hi to A,” but she has already shown me too much kindness. I have fresh beer at almost three a.m. and a bag double-bagged and a man who holds the door for me, as we both step out back into the cold. When I get home, I too will crawl out back, spark a new star into the sky, inhaling every part of me, of us, releasing some dark, burning thing, and send him my love.
Notes from Guest Reader
Warning: Undefined variable $readersname in /nas/content/live/smokelong/wp-content/themes/smokelong2021/template-parts/content/content-story.php on line 180
It grabbed my attention right away with a strong voice and character. There’s a great dynamic of opposites at work: what’s confessed by the narrator and what’s only hinted. What is right with her and what is wrong. Whether she is connected to the social life of the bodega or completely isolated. This is the one I printed off and wanted to keep re-reading.