It’s been a while since I posted, but I have a good excuse. I published the newest issue of Lunch Ticket, did the last stuff I needed to do for my grad school residency, and drove down to Los Angeles.
I’m down here for ten days at a time, and I’ve gotten fairly good at packing. But I’ve never been so good at packing that I haven’t forgotten something crucial and had to hit the Target near the school.
Being in Los Angeles is kinda nice. It’s anonymous. Back home, I see people I know everywhere – at the supermarket, at the gym, at every restaurant I frequent. Here at this Target, nobody knows me. It’s like being invisible or wearing a mask.
I took my purchases up to the bank of registers, but out of twenty or so registers, only four were open, each with a line of at least five people. Everyone shifted from foot to foot, looked at each other, thumbed their phones. The woman in front of me looked at the long lines off to our right and remarked to her husband that she hated this Target because it was always crowded. As I turned my head to look at the crowd, a tall Native American-looking man two registers over turned toward me. His mouth dropped open, and he reached up with one hand, as though about to point to the ceiling.
The man’s shorter brother put an arm around the man’s back, and as his hand encircled the taller man’s waist, the tall guy’s head began to shake. His arm twitched, and his legs folded under him. With a practiced motion, the brother gently guided him to the ground.
That’s when I noticed that the brother, who now stood guard over his shaking, drooling sibling and told
everyone “it won’t last long, he’ll be safer if you stand away from him,” had kyphosis. The store manager came over to find out what could be done for the man suffering the seizure, and when the brother stood up, his hunchback was clearly visible.
I looked at the faces of the people at the registers. The buzz of conversation dropped to almost nothing. Most of the people waiting looked at the goings-on and looked away, not in the self-conscious “I’m not looking! I’m NOT looking!” way that we force ourselves to look away from something we want to stare at, but in the “that poor man, we should afford him some privacy and dignity” way of people who are being decent to each other.
Just as the cashier started scanning my items, the brothers made their way to a bench at the front of the store where the manager got the man a bottle of water and told the men to stay as long as they needed.
I pulled my cloth bag out of my purse and held it open for the cashier.
“I always feel like I’m trick or treating when I do this,” I told the cashier. A kid behind me screeched, the noise level was back to normal, the cashier handed me my bag.
“Every day here is Halloween.”