Grocery stores and grief
I hardly leave my bubble anymore, but today I left my house and went to the grocery store. I used to love going to the grocery store. My son did, too. “Can you take me to that place with all the things,” he asked me recently. “I like that place. Maybe when Covid is gone?” When will Covid be gone, I thought in reply. There used to be a nice little restaurant next to our grocery store. They sold really good curry puffs — big, generous with filling, reasonably priced. My son loved their pasta. We’d go there after work and eat dinner. The staff knew our orders by heart.
That restaurant has since gone out of business. It’s been replaced with a bakery. I hope the bakery makes it.
Today, the kind lady at the checkout counter at the grocery store pointed out to me that I was sweating under two face masks and a face shield. I know, I said, looking at her through the misty face shield. It’s so hot. The AC is too low, she said, it’s always too hot here. But it’s worse with the face masks and shields.
She then asked me how old my baby was.
“Baby mungkin dah 1 tahun sekarang? Tak ingat. Ingat abangnya saja, cakap banyak. Comel. Kesian budak-budak sekarang, tak boleh keluar rumah.”
The baby is almost a year and a half. Abang is almost 7, I said, sadly. And yes, memang kesian.
I went back to my car, took my face shield off, took my face masks off. Sanitized my hands. Then I paused for a long time.
That short interaction — of having “strangers” who aren’t really strangers because they used to be a part of your routine, and you theirs, made me so deeply mournful. She remembers him, the little boy running around the aisles of the store, yelling about how he wants ice cream at the checkout counter. The little boy, with no mask, running around, touching things, putting his hands to his face, mouth, eyes, simply EXISTING in public. The little boy that can probably never return to that world.
She remembers him. I wish we lived in a world where he remembers her, too.
But we don’t.