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