Tuesday, August 26, 2008

You're not alone

I waited impatiently in line at the grocery store. The woman in front of me had a full cart and was moving very slowly and carefully. I sighed giving in to the wait, knowing there was no use in being impatient all the lines were full and at least I was next.

I watched the woman in front of me. There was something familiar in her movement but I couldn’t identify it. Every now and then she would suck in her breath or wince when she backed into the cart. My attention was on full alert, was she being abused? I ran through the different scenarios, watching to see which movements caused her to be uncomfortable and tried to figure out how they were familiar.

She reached for something in the front of her cart and it clicked. Her sleeve pulled up as she stretched her arm out reaching for a jar on the child seat at the front of her cart and I saw the marks. They were as familiar to me as looking in the mirror, they were bruises from cuffs. The stilted movements and wincing pain when she backed into the cart must have been from a flogging or something similar. She saw me staring at her wrist, she blushed and quickly pulled it away pulling down her sleeve. She averted her eyes and went back to unloading her cart.

I noticed she had forgotten a small container of something from the deli. I reached into her cart and handed it to her. “Don’t forget this.” I said with a smile.

She didn’t look up at me she just reached out for the container, trying to keep her eyes down, she mumbled “thank you”. As her hand touched the object her head shot up to look at me her eyes wide in disbelief.

I grinned at her. “You get used to them.” I said as she looked back down at the rope burns circling my wrist and then back up at the small lock around my neck.

“Hopefully one day you will wear them with pride.” I told her.

She stood there stunned and unable to talk.

“Will that be all?” the check out girl asked popping her gum and looking bored.

Still the woman stood there staring at me the container held in her hands.

“I think she has one more thing.” I said to the girl and took the container from her hands and put it on the belt.

That snapped the woman out of it. “Right, uh yes, that’s the last thing.” She said as she handed over the container, paid and retrieved her bags.

I fished a business card out of my purse and handed it to her. “If you ever want to talk,” I said.

She took the card, still staring at me in disbelief and nodded. She looked back at me several times as she walked away. I smiled to myself as I unloaded my cart. You never know who you are going to meet at a suburban grocery store.

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