The refrigerator is empty, trudge to the market. Bread, milk, cereal, fruit. The lines huge, twisting, unruly. Sunday afternoon. Pick the least long line. Right is a large woman, Trinidad in her voice, light. Not reading magazine in her left hand. One foot on the axle of a shopping cart, empty. “Andre! Andre. Get your scrawny little rear over here.” Andre’s got three boxes of cereal, drops one every step. “Let’s have that one. You take those back. Over there, bring me the syrup and the mix. Aisle 3.” Drops cereals into the cart. “Mister. Mister.” Talks to me. “Which is the best one? This one, or this?” Holds two coupons, each a different kind of ham. “That.” Largest discount. She nods, judgement affirmed. Lines are slow. Two girls lollygagging to the cart, braids swinging. Another exchange. This we’ll keep, take that back, no more sweets, where’s the bread, Mister, what do you think? Argue the merits of this food or that. Only win with the milk. Opaque cartons protect the vitamins. Line moves forward. She masters the city line: get in it to start, send troops on sorties, fill it before the register. The cart fills.
Posted November 4, 1999