I watch you approach me in the produce section, it seems all good stories begin in the produce section. Your eyes are on a pineapple and I’m baffled as I try to look away — your clothes are dirty, shorts and a t-shirt so faded I can’t make out the picture on the front. Your feet are sticking out over the edges of a pair of flip-flops and I’m immediately repulsed. Your gray beard is matted and unkempt as it hangs almost to your stomach, yellow stains around your mouth from years of smoking I assume.
For a second, I imagine cleaning you up and putting a red coat and hat on you and hiring you to entertain the kids at my Christmas party… and so in that second that has passed I give you a name… Dirty Santa. Still, you peruse the pineapple and I am dumbfounded. I look in your cart and all I see is mouthwash — twenty bottles of mouthwash and I think of about three very inappropriate jokes associated with the mouthwash in Dirty Santa’s cart in that next second and I laugh deep within my thoughts so that no one knows until I realize why you have all that mouthwash — you drink it.
You come to this store on Sunday morning when the liquor stores are all closed and you know you must have something, soon — I see the trembling in your hands, I see the sweat beading on your brow, I see the confusion within your eyes. Your gaze doesn’t leave those pineapple and mine doesn’t leave you — all of you. You put the pineapple in your cart and you head in the direction of the checkout. I follow you for a bit but you have no idea, the trembling has gotten worse with each passing second and I watch you will your legs to remain steady and forward — left foot, right foot.
You turn to take your place in line and I keep going — past you and I don’t look again… I don’t wonder about you anymore. I stop myself from thinking about the mouthwash and the quivering hands and the dirty clothes and the kids whose father is now the dirty Santa who buys a cart full of mouthwash on Sunday morning and the wife who finally followed through with her ultimatum and the boss who had to let you go and the grandchildren you’ll never know — I stop myself from thinking about all of that and turn to go down the dairy aisle. You were in my heart for a few seconds on a Sunday morning.