A Trip to Wal-Mart
By Annetta Ribken
Contact at: http://www.wordwebbing.com/
"Turning into the parking lot of Wal-Mart, you cruise for a decent spot. You see a car inching out of a prime space; you sit and wait for the woman behind the wheel to pull out. She is taking her time; your fingers drum on the steering wheel as you fight the urge to lay on the horn. What you don't see is that she's trying to get her three-year old to shut up and stop squirming long enough to look behind her; her husband will kill her if she puts another ding in this car.
She safely pulls out, breathing a sign of relief and ready to smack the three-year-old; you pull smoothly into the space she has vacated. What you don't see is the man in the compact car cussing you out for taking his spot. He's had a bad morning; he overslept and missed church. When his wife got home he had to put up with her sighs, knowing looks, and comments about hellfire waiting for unbelievers. He figured he would make the trip to Wal-Mart to pick up some paint for the outside door; maybe that would shut her up. Now he has to ride around the parking lot one more time to find a spot. Day is shaping up great, he thinks.
Getting out of your car, you look up and see two boys walking by. One of them is laughing and the other is clowning, singing some rap song. You hit the lock button, shut the door and double check it without even thinking, wondering how the one kid keeps his pants up because they're riding so low. What you don't see is these two boys are honor roll students, and one of them will be shot early next month in a drive-by. The other kid will go on to complete high school and go to college. This day he spends with his friend will become one of his most cherished memories.
You walk behind the two boys into Wal-Mart; the lady greeter is there as usual. She smiles and pushes a cart in your direction. You don't notice the shadows beneath her eyes and you don't know that she is worried about her daughter and new grandbaby. The baby, her first grandchild, is still in the neo-natal unit and she knows her daughter is pushing herself too hard. She hates her son-in-law but her daughter loves him, so what can she do? She just wishes he would help more around the house, especially with the baby so sick and his wife spending so much time at the hospital. She's counting the minutes until work is over, so she can go help.
You roll your cart over to the pharmacy to drop off a prescription; the pharmacy assistant is tall and cute and you spend a few minutes chatting with him. He tells you how he's working his way through college and you think he seems like a nice fellow. You don't see the slight tremor of his hands and you don't know he's working his way into a huge addiction to codeine. Every minute of every day is consumed by getting high, the need to get high, or scoring to get high. He's filled with self-loathing and guilt, but that doesn't stop him. He won't stop until he loses his job and his scholarship. He will finally flunk out of college and will spend the rest of his life in atonement for the sins he is about to commit.
You wander into the electronics department, and casually look over the new music. Next to you is a young girl; she's pierced, tattooed, dyed, and made up until she looks like a freak from the circus. You sneak looks out of the corner of your eye at this child, and think, "If my daughter ever came home like this I would kill her." What you don't see is this girl is homeless; she's staying at a shelter because her mother took off for parts unknown, leaving her only daughter to the not-so-tender mercies of a perverted stepfather. Suicide is heavy on her mind right now; you catch her eye and she looks truculent. You smile a little, sensing she may need it. She does, and she takes it, giving a small smile in return. The clouds recede for her just a little; you walk on, not knowing what the little smile you gave just did for this girl.
You move on and stop to look through the magazine rack. A gentleman is there in a fatigue jacket perusing the latest hot rod magazine; he looks totally absorbed. What you don't see is this man has not slept in three nights and is looking for some relief. The nightmares won't let him go and the ebony cloak of depression is hovering, hovering. He has to sleep, but the screams of his men and the sound of the helicopters won't leave him. He's been here at Wal-Mart for six hours, and has almost finished reading every magazine on this rack. The winds of madness are blowing hard and he is holding on for dear life.
Stopping in the automotive department, you pick up some windshield washer fluid and notice a young man doing the same. You smile at him and he smiles back, but looks a little distracted. You have no way of knowing how sick he feels inside, because he's been cheating on his wife for the past six months and doesn't know what to do. He doesn't realize his wife has known for the last four months, and is at this very moment calling a lawyer. He only knows he loves his wife, but the other woman does things with her mouth and tongue his wife won't. The other woman understands him and puts no pressure on him. The other woman is his wife's best friend.
You get to the checkout lane with your purchases, and wait in line while the elderly woman in front of you unloads cat food, sheets, some Tylenol, and an African violet on the conveyor belt. She is humming to herself and looks happy; you smile, not knowing she's thinking of her husband who passed away close to twenty years ago, not knowing she misses him with every breath she takes. She's just marking time until she can join him. She feels lucky she had the time she did with him, but she's angry with God for taking him too soon. The anger is with her always, cheek by jowl with love.
The check out guy is mechanically doing his job; his mind is on the cute girl he met two months ago. She doesn't know (and neither do you) how his insides flutter every time he thinks of her, and now he's determined to get up the guts to ask her out. He daydreams about the sheen of her hair, the curve of her waist, and then stops because to go any further would embarrass him.
Sliding your credit card, punching in the PIN number is automatic with a ritualistic feel. You say thank you to the love struck boy, and head outside. Putting your purchases in the trunk, you get into the car, start it up and pull out. Someone is patiently waiting for your slot; they don't see worry on your face about a small lump that may or may not be there. They don't see your panic at the thought of your son entering the military or the concern about your daughter, who's been spending a lot of time with her friends and not enough at home. They don't see the strains of a marriage on the brink, the stress digging deeper and deeper into the flesh of your face.
You back out of the parking space, and head home. A waiting car pulls smoothly into the vacated spot.