Saturday, January 1, 2011

Discounted

He stood near the register and waited for his cartridges. He deemed two-for-one worth his wait. Holiday Muzak wafted above this thoughts; disgruntled shoppers bustled and bumped between idles. He didn't hear her words; he wouldn't have recognized her voice. Too many years had passed between them.

"Hi!"

He uncrossed his arms and pushed his hands into his pockets. He fondled his key fob with his fingers; he pressed his glucose tablets in his other palm. He felt a hand touch his forearm. He pivoted to see who violated his privacy.

"Hello!" Her voice was full of Christmas cheer.

He looked at her and saw his past. Her teenage son stood at her side; he looked into the boy's eyes. He knew they didn't match his own. He suffocated his sadness and smiled at her. "Hi! Wow! Long time no see!"

They kissed cheeks; it was a restrained gesture considering the carnality of their past.

"Happy New Year!" Her words left her mouth; her son left her side.

"Happy New Year to you too! How are you?"

"I'm well. I didn't know if it was you or not!"

"It's me. I'd have known you anywhere." He smiled.

"I didn't realize how old we are until I saw you!" She scrunched her nose; the gesture creased her eyes.

"Excuse me?"

"You really look old!"

He pulled in his paunch; he straightened his spine; his pride slouched. "What?"

"Oh I don't mean anything by it!" She looked confused. "I'm just surprised. I would have expected you to age better." She looked him into his eyes.

His slapped a facade on his face. Jesus Christ you insensitive bitch! He left his words unspoken; he wished she had led by example. It's been the worst fucking year of my life! I've lost everything! All I do is limp from chair to chair! His venom stunned him into silence. "It's been a difficult year." He allowed aloud.

"Oh." She shifted her gaze behind him.

He shifted his shoes to give his feet a new foundation. "Hey? Why would you say something like that? Seriously. I can't tell you how hurt I am you'd say such a thing. I know I don't look good anymore. Diabetes sucks. I went from riding a bike 15 miles a day to sitting in a chair. I've gained weight. Look at my skin. It's all flakey. I limp when I walk. I'm humiliated every time I walk out of my house. Why would you say something so mean to anyone, really? I don't get it."

"Mark, you were always so sensitive." She crossed her arms over her chest.

"Yeah, I've got sensitive skin. It's why I look like shit." He left his cartridges at the counter and walked out of Walgreens.