On the way home from work Tuesday night, I stopped to pick up some dinner at the Chipotle near my apartment. There is nothing like a burrito bowl to console you in the face of an oncoming blizzard, which was forecast for later that night and early the next morning. As is my habit, I stopped at the Walgreens across the street first.
I love Walgreens. I visit Walgreens so often, nearly every day, that I no longer keep track of what I pick up on each visit. What, you note how often you run to the store for milk, bread, nail polish remover? Sometimes it’s prescriptions from the pharmacy in the back, ideally from my favorite pharmacist, the one who wears a slim-fitting vest adorned with various enamel buttons advertising his profession. Another day, kitchen sponges and a box of Cap’n Crunch.
I know to linger by the cosmetics counter when a long line forms at the front registers, so that I get rung up quickly. I have favorite employees — all of them. Even Maurine who will sometimes slow down a line when she talks to herself, to the customer, and to the items as she scans and bags them. For the life of me I can never keep track of my fellow shoppers, the other frequent Walgreens flyers.
Apart from chatting with the clerks or the pharmacist, though, I don’t interact much with folks at the Walgreens. I like to get in, linger for a while to see if my favorite surly redheaded clerk/stockboy is around, then move on. Okay, maybe sometimes I’ll stare at the old ladies, the ones who come in with their shopping carts, folded up with paper bags shoved into the mesh, and pray to jebus that if I have to be a spinster that I don’t end up dusty and talking to myself, wig askew and smelling faintly of sour milk. Or the younger girls who shop in pairs, haphazard ponytails and torn sweats and Uggs under North Face jackets, glowing orange as they buy packs of cigarettes. I shop alone. I am the lone (Walgreens) wolf.
Anyway. Tuesday night. I’m standing next to the freezers. I’ve just decided not to buy myself a box of Hot Pockets for dinner. I’ve turned my back on the Hot Pockets and the pints of ice cream to look at the nuts. Almonds, macadamias, cashews. Oh, and this dude with a shopping cart stuffed full of frozen breakfast sausages. He carried a tin of Pirouette cookies in his hand.
“Oh yeah, these Pirouettes. So glad I found these.”
I turn, slightly to my left (because that’s where he’s standing, shifting his weight from one foot to the other). I half-smile, then become very interested in the microwave popcorn.
“Did you know? I said, you know these make the best dessert. Oh yeah, what you, what you do is… you take some oatmeal, right? Get a really big wine glass, then make the oatmeal, but it in the glass. Yeah! And then you stick one of these pirouettes in there. Oh, it’s so good. Yeah, I learned to make these when I was at the Sorbonne, right there in Paris France?” He gestures at the cookies. “I usually make them myself, but you know, it’s so hard? With the hazelnuts?” By this point, he’s moved to my right, heading towards the chips, the register, and, eventually, the door.
Was he the one who got away? Ladies, should I have gone after him? Sir, wherever you are, whoever you are, the next time I eat oatmeal out of a wine glass with a big Pirouette sticking out of it, I’ll think of you, and fondly at that.