Last night, I had this dream. It made me kind of sad when I woke up today...
It was 1 am and I couldn't sleep. I got in my car and drove to the 24 hour grocery store. The place was completely dead, so I went to one of the registers and opened the checkout lane. I stood there for hours, but no customers came through. There was something comforting about standing there for all those empty hours. As dawn approached, I was pretty exhausted. I was about to close up when a lady wheeled her cart around. I scanned her items, trying to look like I had done this before.
"The key," I thought, "was to be very careful with the bread."
Behind the lady, another woman got in line. She had a few things in her arms and looked about my age. Then, a heavy set guy in glasses pushed his cart in behind the second lady. After I'd finished ringing up the first customer, I greeted the lady with just a few items. I recognized her as a girl I'd had classes with in high school.
I didn't say anything about remembering her, but when I finished ringing her up, she said, "Can I talk to you?"
I glanced at the guy behind her. "Yeah, just a minute."
She stood by the produce while I finished with the guy in glasses. He was kind of grumpy--a guy who was displeased with everything, but wouldn't complain about anything. I thanked him, turned off the light above the register, and walked over to the girl from high school. She looked like life had made her very tired. Somehow, it made her prettier than I remembered her.
She glanced at the lettuce, carrots, and melons. "Can we get out of here?
I nodded. "Sure. Let me clock out."
We walked to the manager's office and he gave me some cash. Then, my old classmate and I walked out of the store.
I hesitated and almost turned to go back in the store. "I should get some smokes."
She looked over her shoulder at me. "You can bum some of mine." She held out a pack of Winston's and I took one. She tossed her groceries in her car and turned around. "Is there somewhere to sit?"
I nodded. "Over by the side of the store."
We walked to where a bench was hidden away between the store and some bushes. She started talking about a friend of ours who had put together an artistic gymnastics thing, something like a ballet mixed with interpretive floor exercise. I had apparently received an email about it, but never responded. She said it would mean a lot to our old friend if I showed up. The performance was at 6:30 that evening, but there was a small dinner gathering before the show which was happening at 5:30. She said I should come to that.
I told her I would try to make it.
I needed sleep, but wanted to stay with her a while. I wondered if she was telling me about the stuff that evening because our friend wanted me to show up or because she wanted me to. I started rambling about different things. I can't remember what I was going on about. We both sat and smoked in the cool shade. She was quiet and seemed disinterested. I said something about how I was boring her. She didn't deny it, but told me she was just listening. She stood up to leave. I asked if she wanted to see my shop. "It's just across the street."
We crossed to a concrete slab covered in rusting metal and motor oil stains. I opened a garage door. It rattled as the peeling white paint and dirty glass slid above my head. Inside, worn out, dirty tools were pushed against the walls. We stood on the concrete, smoking as the hazy morning sun twinkled in and out of clouds. She looked around at all the junk.
"My son would like this."
I studied her face. I didn't get the feeling she was married. "You should bring him around some time."
She nodded. "Okay." We were both kind of quiet. Finally, she said she'd better go. I was so tired. I told her I'd see her that evening. She didn't smile. She nodded and walked back toward her car. I stood in the garage, my mind stuck on her. I closed everything up and walked to my own car. I needed sleep.