When I did my shopping earlier this morning, I forgot to remember it is Whitsun this Sunday. So Monday is a holiday too and all shops will be closed. But I did remember in time to get myself at least one more carton of milk. And while I was at it, I picked up a box with eggs and some cheese too.
Outside temperatures were soaring as the sun was fully out yet another bright and sunny Spring day. Inside the shop it was nice and cool. I did not mind being there.
I was waiting in line at the checkout. It was quite busy. Behind me a couple approached the line with a cart full of groceries. They looked like their skins had not had any sunshine for months. She was skinny. Sharp lines in her face. Dark hair with bits of grey mixed in. I could not make out the colour of her eyes. Her hands moved as if there was a burning cigarette somewhere. Which was not the case of course. She moved around in the fashion of an ant.
He was big and puffy. He had not too much hair any more and what he still had, was long. It covered his ears and at the back hung down over his collar. He wore glasses that looked uncomfortable. Heavy, resting in two purple dents, one at either side of his nasal bridge. Thick glasses and a frame that did not fit too well. It was not horizontal in his face. Maybe his face was not horizontal behind the glasses.
As they approached I smiled at the woman. She smiled back and then immediately looked at the man. So I smiled at him to. He did not respond. I made some silly remarks about the weather or whatever, I do not remember. Much to my surprise, the woman laughed. So I laughed a bit with her. And we started to joke some, a bit back and forth. Kill time, make conversation.
The jokes went all over the place and then made a rough landing at the issue of men. I made an innocent remark, or so I thought, on how women are much more efficient in shopping than are men, and how they would be better off leaving the men home. “We do not really need them around while shopping, only their wallet.” The man immediately made a snappy remark to his wife about how she could walk home, if this is what she thought too.
She disconnected. I saw it happening. She withdrew, laughed, but was not with me any more. It was an apologetic laugh rather than a laugh because she was humoured. I did not understand, but, hey I was in the checkout line of a busy supermarket just before it would close before Whitsun. It was a lovely weather out there and I was in a good mood. My thoughts quickly moved on to a new subject.
We reached the belt conveyor and I put my three things down. The man started to put their groceries on the conveyor belt real quick. Some things he counted out loud, which amused me to some extend. But I was careful not to show. I was just looking the other way.
Then it got grim. He counted “One. Two. Three. Four.” He went silent. “One. Two. Three. Four.” He had not put anything else on the conveyor belt when counting the second time. I turned around to see. He recounted with a slow voice. “One. Two. Three. Four.” There were four bottles of Vermouth on the conveyor belt. Those were what he was counting. And again. “One. Two. Three. Four.”
I could see that the woman tried to understand him. Her eyes with great focus, a frown over them. Her hands clutched into one ball, tightly pulled into her stomach.
“It is Whitsun tomorrow.” he said. “And Monday all the shops will be closed as well.” He pauzed. Neither of them spoke or moved. “There are two bottles short. What are you waiting for. Go get them.” The woman apologised to the man and then dashed off, back into the shop. I was astound.
Soon she came back with two more bottles of Vermouth. She apologised again to the man and wanted to put the bottles on the conveyor belt. He stopped her by grabbing her wrists. She almost dropped the bottles. Then he took the bottles from her. She chuckled a bit. The sort of giggle that in sound is hard to differentiate from a child’s sobbing. He put the bottles next to the others. And he counted out loud. “One. Two. Three. Four. Five. Six.” Her hands moved around like they were handling a burning cigarette.
“Christ! I can do with some Holy Spirit now, please? Forget Whitsun. Make it today. Speak the right tone, the right tongue. Reach her. Reach him. Reach out.”
After I paid, I left the shop. I hoped the milk had not gone sour, standing there, waiting in that long line for checkout this Saturday before Whitsun.