May 13, 2008

More tales from my neighborhood

On my way home from work today I made my regular round of errands. It was rather difficult today because I have been up nearly all night the past two nights and my butt was dragging.

I stopped at the convenience store where the older Indian man works. (I should probably ask his name sometime.) His latest thing is saying, "Where have you been!? I have not seen you for a month!" (He says this though I religiously stop in at least once a week.) I told him that when I was there on Friday he wasn't there--that someone else was working in his place.

"Ah, yes. That was my father partner," he said. "I was in Grass Valley that day." He recently opened another store in Grass Valley and he goes out periodically to check on it.

"How far away is Grass Valley, anyway?" I asked.

"Oh, it is far. One hour beyond Sacramento," he answered. (Sacramento is already about 90 miles from San Francisco.) "Maybe sometime you will go to Grass Valley with me."

I smiled noncommittally, picked up my purchases, and wished him a nice day. The man is very persistent, and I can't for the life of me imagine what would discuss in the car for 2 1/2 hours together.

Then I went to my regular pharmacy and took my place in line at the window. An elderly lady with a mustache and a cane shuffled up and stood behind me. She bemoaned that we had to wait, and said, "I'm not young anymore. It's hard to get around." I smiled sympathetically, and she continued: "Would you believe that most of the time I wish I were dead? Everyone I know is gone and I'm all alone. I can't wait to join them. It's not all over after this life, you know."

I was feeling emotionally fragile and exhausted anyway, and my eyes immediately welled up. I was grateful that they were hidden behind my sunglasses. "I sure hope you're right," I croaked.

"Oh, I am. I am," she said with certainty. "I've had many experiences with people who were already dead that have talked to me or helped me or comforted me. Why, once when I was asleep my mother woke me up to tell me a man was trying to get in the window. And she was dead. And you know what? There was a man trying to get in the window to rob me."

As she was finishing this sentence, my turn came and I excused myself to pick up my prescriptions. As I left I said goodbye to her. I would have loved to sit down with her and listen to her stories and tape record them. Maybe I should have asked. Instead, I slipped out of the fluorescent-lit Walgreen's and into the bright sunlight of a beautiful May day in San Francisco. I wish I had gone back.

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