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Aine Gwaed Infanc

the realization that every person has a life as unique and complex as your own

Walmart. 9:47 p.m. Sunday Night.

Amid the empty highway desolation

of a late night at the supermarket,

enter the following characters.

First, there’s the 26-year-old guy

buying Miller Lights ahead of me in line.

Yeah, that one with the leather jacket

talking it up to the cashier,

telling her she doesn’t look a day over twenty

(she’s fifty). When he glanced back,

I caught a look at his face. At his eyes.

At the emptiness his smile hides.

For that brief second, I’ve lived his life,

known him as well as his sister

he hasn’t seen since he left at eighteen,

leaving her to deal with broken bottles

and vomit. A motorcycle’s waiting in the damp,

hazy-ring-around-the-lights parking lot

taking him, six pack, and Redbox movie home

to the white-walled one room apartment

where his girlfriend (two weeks) waits impatiently.

Then there’s the cashier who raises four

grandkids by three different children.

She’s worked here for the three years

since her boss at Fried Green Tomato couldn’t understand

her need for a thirty-minute smoke break twice a day.

The boy with the Millers reminds her of her son

who overdosed (heroin) two years ago,

leaving her a pigtailed six-year-old.

He had the same smile as this boy,

same way of talking that charmed

her into giving him the keys,

shushing maternal reproaches

with a “Mom, you’re looking gorgeous.”

She questions if it’s his angel returned

(she believes in angels) or just she’s been on shift

eight hours and sees his face most places anyway.

Then there’s me with nothing

better to do than ponder the lives of strangers.

Me, the adult remnant of a lonely, only child

who read too much, dreamed too big,

trusted too many, now doesn’t know where to go

except home with Blue Bunny ice cream,

thinking how my life I insist is complex

is a mere paint speck in the graffiti mural of humanity.

I pack my late-night Walmart philosophy

into the thin plastic sack with ice cream

and return to the solitary night.

Spring, 2018 Issue

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