life can slap you in the face when you're looking away
|I entered the air conditioned vestibule, the automatic doors parting to belch cold air into the saunalike parking lot. I put my shopping bags into the cart and walked to the produce section. I'm always so brain dead in the grocery store, I swear a celebrity could ask me for directions to the nearest head shop and I wouldn't notice. I'm that pre-occupied when it comes to grocery shopping.
Anyway, the produce section is my favorite place to be in the grocery store. I love the colors, the smells, the misters. It's a sensory wonderland. I was groping the avocados to measure their varying degrees of ripeness when I had the strangest feeling I was being watched. It was so sudden, I almost didn't' realize what the strange feeling actually was until I felt compelled to look up. We locked eyes immediately and he flashed me a broad smile from across the tomatoes. He was the long lost love of my life, my first boyfriend and my favorite. The adrenalin that shot up my spine from my stomach was nauseating and thrilling all at once. Quite literally the last person I expected to see on the entire planet was striding confidently toward me with a dazzling smile that made my heart thump in my neck now just as it had done nearly 25 years ago. Travis. I couldn't believe my eyes.
"Laura?!" He exclaimed. "I can't believe it! You live in Nashville?"
"Yeah! I've lived here for about ten years now! I didn't know you lived here?!" He reached me, and pulled me to him for a hug. A beautiful, warm, genuinely loving hug. He lingered for a minute in this hug, and oh my God my eyes closed without my consent. "It's so good to see you!" He said, pulling away but keeping my hands in his. "You look wonderful."
"So do you..." I couldn't believe this was all I could come up with. "Really."
"Awww, thanks." he looked sheepishly at the ground and we were quiet for a moment.
We proceeded to catch up on each other's lives. He was married with a four year old daughter. I was married with three kids.
He worked for a television network, I'm a housewife. I found myself almost embarrassed to talk about what I had and hadn't done with my life over the last 25 years since we last saw each other. I couldn't explain why exactly, but somehow it seemed not good enough. Not interesting or glamorous enough.
He showed me pictures of his wife and kid, both were amazing of course. I showed him pictures too.
In all, I'd say we spent forty five minutes in the produce section. Talking, laughing. I was under his spell all over again, in a completely different world.
The spell was broken by my phone. It was my husband texting me- "r u on your way? the kids are hungry, gonna have to give them dinner soon otherwise I'll just order a pizza..."
We said our goodbyes amongst the tomatoes and avocados. I had forgotten what I had come here to get in the first place.
He hugged me again and gushed about how good it was to see me, we should keep in touch. I concurred.
As we parted ways, I didn't want to look back, but somehow I knew he was watching me walk away. I turned the corner out of the produce department and felt the hot tears begin to well in my eyes. The bathroom was close at the back of the store, I ducked into a stall and sobbed.
"What the hell had happened?" I asked myself, "How am I so fucking far away from where I had intended to go 25 years ago?"
"Go ahead and order pizza" I texted back- "I'm not quite done here..."