The hustle and bustle from grocery store patrons coming and going has Geneva slightly on edge, but it’s the most excitement she’s had since her last trip to the grocery store this time last month. Ironically, she’s timed her trip for about the same time everyone gets their SNAP benefits posted to the EBT card rather than waiting a couple days for the crowds to subside. This is really the only time that she gets to interact with other people, if only passing in the aisles. Sometimes she catches herself paying attention to the other shoppers and contents of their shopping carts. Entertained by the families and children that beg for candy and sugary cereal. She imagines what life would be like if she were a part of their lives. Their nana or great aunt. She smiles to herself, so distracted by children begging for items that she barely misses a gentleman examining canned vegetables.
“Oh, pardon me now.”
“Quite alright, ma’am. Can’t do much more damage than the price of these canned goods is gonna do to my fixed income.” The elderly gentleman gives a hearty chuckle. “I see your basket is empty.”
“Well that’s only because I just got here.” Her response is almost curt, as if she doesn’t really want to talk with him. A deception of too much time spent apart from the company of others, especially gentlemen. Geneva notices his glistening smile and wonders if those are porcelain veneers or some other material. Very unlikely they’d be his real teeth at his age.
“Then, you know it would really be a huge help if an old man could share a basket with you. That is if you aren’t doing a heap of shopping and it isn’t too much of an imposition. Those hand baskets are difficult to manage with my cane and – Oh, is your husband accompanying you?” He looks around as if he expects to see someone join her from either direction of the aisle.
Geneva suppresses her surprise, uncertain how she should feel about his offer but glad for the company. “Ain’t married.” She replies almost as if she’s offended by his request only because she’s unsure of herself. “I suppose it makes sense to share a basket since you’re near cripple and all.”
“That’s mighty fine of you, ma’am.” He places a canned good in the basket. “Lead the way.” He extends a hand in the direction they’re taking in the aisle.
Geneva slowly begins to push the basket down the aisle taking notice that she doesn’t smell efferdent but a nice mild aftershave instead. Those couldn’t possibly be his real teeth. She stops to pick up a bag of rice.
“Uh, name’s Quincy by the way.” He looks at Geneva awaiting a reply.
“Geneva.” Her response is less terse. She places the rice in her basket and resumes strolling down the aisle.
“Good to make your acquaintance, Geneva.” Quincy reaches behind her and picks up a bag of rice to add to the cart also.
“Suppose I should be more careful who I ask to share a cart with considering you almost ran me over.”
Geneva smiles. “Is that how you got on that cane?” They share a laugh. “You got ran over by some old lady with a shopping cart!”
Once the laughter subsides, Quincy replies,“No, ma’am. Not by far. This here is compliments of the war.” He uses his cane to tap the side of his orthopedic shoe. “Some shrapnel got lodged in my foot. Haven’t walked without it since.”
“So sorry that happened to you.”
“Considering some folks lost their limbs, I feel like I won the lottery.” Quincy adds a box of oatmeal to the basket. Geneva reaches to get a box of grits only because she realizes that she’s been so attentive to Quincy that she’s bypassed the black-eyed peas.
The two of them continue to make light conversation as they peruse the aisles of the grocery store. Quincy is about a few inches taller than Geneva’s 5’5 frame. He’s husky from what Geneva assumes is years of limited range of motion from a war injury. What usually only takes Geneva about half an hour has easily turned into almost three hours. Never before has she laughed so much.
“I’ve got my milk and eggs. That’s about all I came for.” Geneva begins putting her things on the conveyer belt with the assistance of Quincy. Although she’s sad that this shopping trip has reached an end her voice still sounds light and happy from all the laughter they’ve shared.
“It certainly has been a pleasure sharing a cart, ma’am. I, eh…” Quincy laughs under his breath a bit. “I don’t know how people do these things nowadays. Could I trouble you for a cup of coffee every once in a while? Maybe call on you to share a cart on grocery day another time?” Quincy looks embarrassed. All the charm with which he’s entertained Geneva reduced to schoolboy bashfulness.
Geneva smiles. “I think that’s a fine idea, Quincy.” As she pays the cashier for her purchase, she loads the bagged items into her portable.
Quincy’s face lights up. “Well alright then. Let me get your number there.” Quincy pulls out his wallet and shuffles through some compartments. “This here is my appointment card. I’m sure not to lose that. Just write your number there.” He passes the card to Geneva.
“Could I use your pen, young lady?”
The cashier smiles and hands her the ink pen. “Congratulations, he’s a cutie.”
Geneva blushes but avoids making eye contact with Quincy who is also smiling from ear to ear. After she writes her number on the card she returns the pen to the cashier. “Thank you, young lady.” She gives Quincy his appointment card and he immediately returns it to his wallet.
“Good day, Quincy.”
“And a good day to you, Geneva.” Quincy tips his hat. He has all his hair, too. Closely shaven salt and pepper stubble that trails from his head to his sideburns, beard and mustache.
Geneva gives another warm smile and pushes her portable cart toward the mechanical doors. Quincy is so distracted by her that he hasn’t heard the cashier give his total, watching her until she is no longer visible.
“Sir?” The cashier is giggling at their behavior. “Your total is $21.40.”
“Pardon my distraction.” He returns his hat to his head. Wallet still in hand, he counts out exact bills before digging in his pockets for the change. The cashier hands him his receipt and bag once she’s placed the money in the drawer, and he walks away.
“Oh, Sir!” she calls out. “Your lady friend forgot her bag. Do you suppose you could get it to her?” She takes a couple steps to hand the bag to him.
“Yes. I’ll do that. Sure will.” He smiles and peeps at the contents of the bag. Cat food. Funny thing about it is his allergies never gave him any trouble the entire time they were side by side. He smiles again, resisting the idea that this chance encounter was somehow meant to be.