Jackshit Rainbow

At the grocery store, I had just snatched up a bunch of bananas when someone said, “Hi.” (Yes, Lucasz started it.) He was stocking in the produce section. I was surprised by how happy he seemed. I had felt assailed when we entered the store – the smell was incredible – like someone had sprayed powdered sugar in the air. I remembered someone in Antwerp telling me a story about an immigrant who, after years of labor had finally earned enough to bring his mother over. When she arrived, he took her to the weekend market, where she burst into tears, inconsolable at the sight of so much excess when she had scrabbled along her entire life on so much less.

“I was busy trying to change the future!

Do you know how lonely that is?!”

I didn’t say that, but I had just been describing my experience growing up. Paraphrasing is an excellent interpersonal response!  Roomie and I were arguing over who had paid the most attention. She could not deny that she was into all kinds of things always, noticing and learning. In the end, we credited my survival with Star Trek, blogging and seltzer.

1

At the grocery store, I had just snatched up a bunch of bananas when someone said, “Hi.”  (Yes, Lucasz started it.)  He was stocking in the produce section. I was surprised by how happy he seemed. I had felt assailed when we entered the store – the smell was incredible – like someone had sprayed powdered sugar in the air. I remembered someone in Antwerp telling me a story about an immigrant who, after years of labor had finally earned enough to bring his mother over. When she arrived, he took her to the weekend market, where she burst into tears, inconsolable at the sight of so much excess when she had scrabbled along her entire life on so much less.

I responded to Lucasz, commenting that it seemed kindof slow.  “No, it’s busy,” he said.

“Really?”

“Yes, it will get busier around six.”

“Is it slower in the morning, then?” He hesitated.

Maybe he said it depends, or something else to indicate it wasn’t necessarily so.

“Is there no predictable time when it’s quiet?”

Another noncommittal gesture, apparently not  . . . “You’re not from around here?” he half-asked me.

“I am! I’m just not always paying attention.”

“It’s because the music is off.”

Aha! Is that why the atmosphere felt different than usual, I wondered to myself. And, he’s really paying attention!

“Always at this time?” I asked.

He shrugged.

“Oh, something’s broken then.”

He might have agreed.

“Where are you from?” I asked him.

“Poland.” He grinned.

“A student,” He added.

“At UMass?”

“Yes. One more semester.”

“You’re almost done!”

Big smile.

“What will you do next?”

“Go home.” Another grin.

“Oh right, the immigration law. You can’t stay.”

“I could stay!” He insisted.

“But you want to go home?!” His certainty surprised me.

“Yes.” He explained he has family here, as well as back home. But also the buddies he grew up with: “half of them are there.”

“You wanna hang with them!” He nodded. Grinning.

“Is it a pack thing? Testosterone?” The question blurted out before I thought to censor it. “Sorry.”

“I don’t know.” He grinned again.

Turns out he’s been studying architecture.

“Oh, you have a better chance of a job there?”

He didn’t say, but probably.

Hmmm, I thought to myself. Europe is good.

2

The sensory shopping assault continued as I strolled the aisles, considering what’s actually seasonal now, wondering about fruits and vegetables being so large and uniformly shaped, considering that globalization has made it so we can pretty much buy anything anytime (if you can afford it), and the products scream for attention in a cascade of color, as if trying to out-brilliance each other.

I examined the rice, a staple: what brand? I have no idea what mom used to buy. Or anyone else. I’m familiar with Goya; I kindof like the idea of challenging protectionism. Then I think, yea, but its carbon footprint sucks as bad as everybody else’s, doesn’t it? The right kind of solution would be to shop local. Not ‘buy American’ – no implication of ‘buying white’ or ‘from citizens only.’ But to shop and by from the people who live here. Whoever they are. Wherever they’re from.

3

Fellow shoppers pass, intent on lists, scouring the shelves for desired items. We do not speak or make eye contact with one another. Without background music to mask the shuffle of carts and cartons it is less easy to ignore each other but we manage to do so. The smell of sweet vanishes under a boosting-disambiguationchemical barrage – should have held my breath and dashed past the cleaning aisle, ignoring it as firmly as the health and beauty products, the HBP as Beh told me later, teaching me about boosting as she checked my groceries out.

I believed her but wondered if I’m the only one out of touch enough not to know what it is so maybe I should put in a link. …. Yea, wikipedia’s disambiguation entry on boosting is enough.

Beh is a sharp cookie. Not only did she tell me about the theft economy working right under our noses at the Amherst Stop and Shop (they’ve got a detective on it) she’s pretty sure the cash from street sales goes to drug cartels. Who would guess amidst the massive glut of bootie that the underground economy is occupying the self-same space?

4

Roomie was taking her sweet day-dreaming time. I re-entered the store with the remaining empty shopping bags, curious about the guy still by the front door who I had overheard talking into his phone like a walkie-talkie when I had exited moments before. “Are you the detective?” I asked when we walked out again a few minutes later. “Oh yeah,” he joked, saying he was the Chief. Now I notice the Salvation Army sign. Reaching into my pocket, I commented that I had never contributed in this way before.

“They helped me out a lot,” he said.

“They helped my brother for awhile, too.”

“For awhile. Something happened.” He asked without asking.

“Things happen.” I replied. “Take care of yourself.”

“You too,” he said. And wished me blessings.

“Jackshit happens.” Roomie repeated.

What inflection is that, I wondered.  “Nonsense,” she said. Light, like teasing. Except sometimes it can be harsh, “I guess it’s in the tone?” I mused out loud.  “There’s a whole range,” she offered, “It can mean anything, a whole jackshit rainbow of meanings.”

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