I put my groceries in my car trunk, (all except the bag of low sodium popcorn) and settled myself into the front seat of my car. Time to drive home, but I didn’t feel like it. Home meant cleaning chores, laundry, and some vigorous digging in the garden. I’d rather stay here. It didn’t hurt that my supermarket parking lot has one of the best views in town. It overlooks the ocean, which today was a steely gray with dramatic black clouds filling the sky above.
Lounging and munching, I surveyed the passing parade. A toddler all in pink, her fat legs bowed, staggered away from her mother, who followed with a stroller and an anxious expression. Next came a teenage boy, his legs seemingly limitless in tight black jeans, bent over his phone in such concentration he barely heard the horn of a testy driver trying to turn without committing murder. Unruffled, the boy stepped out of the way and resumed staring at his small screen as he headed for the market door.
A slight Asian woman crossed the lot, each of her hands gripping that of a a tiny child. They, were skipping along singing something I couldn’t hear. Only a year or so older than the baby in pink, they’d already mastered the art of language, singing, plus the skipping gait.
More popcorn for me, and a few kernels thrown out for the seagulls perched on the parking lot wall. A middle aged woman gave me a disapproving look and I suppose she was right. Encouraging those greedy squawking birds is always a mistake. But since I was playing hooky from my real life, I felt all rules were off.
I watched a line of customers head for the market door, many with cell phones stuck to one ear as if a far off puppet master was dictating their shopping..A man with a cane passed, then one pushing a walker. They were followed by a tiny woman wearing outsize, white cotton gloves on her small hands. Her companion, a large woman, probably a caregiver, was pushing a cart to which the older woman clung with the desperation of an infant gripping its mother’s finger.
From toddler to old age. Didn’t Shakespeare have something to say about that? Scraps from my schooldays floated into my head. The “infant mewling and puking in his nurse’s arms,” progressed to a “whining schoolboy,” a lover, a soldier, and finally a shrunken geezer, the last stop before death. Typical of Shakespeare’s era, to call it the Seven Ages of Man as if there were no women in his world.
When I craned my neck, I got a good view of of two employees leaning against the store wall enjoying a cigarette. These days I long to tell smokers how my mother, brother and brother-in-law died, but mostly restrain myself, knowing my words of wisdom will likely fall on resolutely deaf ears.
The popcorn was finished, and my mouth was dry. Should I go inside and buy a drink? A rap on my window made me jump.
“So, Jean,” said a loud voice, “why are you just sitting there in your car?” It was one of my neighbors, a woman who specializes in criticism.
I forced a smile to my stiff lips and said, “Took a little break. Got to be on my way now. Good to see you.” A lie if ever there was one.
But I’d enjoyed my break and the idle thoughts that bubbled to the surface once I stepped off my usual merry-go-round. I’d have to try it again. Soon…