I met a girl at the grocery store the other day while I was shopping for something red and delicious. I saw her standing next to a display of melons, cantelope or honeydew, I don't recall now which. She held a melon to her ear, cradled delicately against her pale cheek. Gently she rapped on the fruit with her knuckle, once here, twice there. With a sigh she shook her head, disappointed, and replaced the gourd in the pile.
I was staring. I admit that I was. And she caught me. There was a moment of eye contact. I believe I must have blushed, looked away. She smiled, giggled a little. Maybe I made that part up, I don't remember, I just remember I was a little embarassed. I looked at her again, though. Her eyes met mine again. I didn't look away this time.
She picked up another melon. This melon was also cradled against her head, interrogated with her knuckle. She was wearing a yellow jumper dress, the kind that was popular during the 80s, all cotton and baggy and bright. Underneith the jumper was a black ribbed tank top from which a navy blue sports bra peeked out. Her hair was pulled back into a crooked messy ponytail, brown and red and black. A gaudy necklace cirlcled her neck like a spider's web, her ears were peirced more times that I could count on such a casual observation. She wore no socks in her dirty keds with no laces.
I was mesmerized. She said, "The world is dead, you know." She was smiling. "It's dead, a zombie, the dead walking. You know what that makes humanity? Vermin. Maggots, living off of the corpse, eating away pretending everything is okay. What do you think, is everthing okay?"
She was talking. To me? I couldn't be sure. I looked around to find who she knew, who she was telling such a morbid tidbit with this jubilent of a smile. Such dismal news, but still so...so...smiley. She couldn't be telling me, a stranger in the produce section. Someone she's never even met yet.
I didn't want to answer her, what if she wasn't talking to me. How embarassing. How socially inept, making a fool of myself by deeming myself important enough to think she was talking to me.
Here she laughed. At me. "You, girl, I am talking to you! What do you think, is the world dead? I know it is"
I answered her, but I don't remember what I said. She just looked at me, still laughing a little. It didn't matter what I said, I am pretty sure, she had no expectations from me. She was just amusing herself, I am sure. But as long as she smiled, laughed, I wasn't upset, I didn't feel used. I felt strange, I don't know what I felt.
Still laughing, she put down the other melon. She walked over to me and grabbed my hand with both of hers, startling me a little with the sudden contact, the sudden reality of her existance. With both of her hands still clutching mine, she pulled me closer, pulled my hand to her chest and squeezed.
She was holding my hand with one of her own very cold hands, her other hand shot around and pulled out a large messy bag from the floor that I had failed ot notice previously. Rooting around in it with her other hand, I was still too stunned to move, to pull my hand back, to do anything but stand there and exist in her world for a moment.
I found myself wondering what she would pull from the bag, hoping that it had the characteristics of a magic carpet bag, a satchel full of everything you ever wanted, wishes and desires, hopes and dreams all available in physical manifestations. Instead of dreams, it was a sharpie. Blue. She pulled the cap off with her teeth and pushed my hand flat and started writing. A telephone number, a name. Jolene.
With one more quick squeeze which smudged the writing a bit she pulled me closer and kissed me on the cheek. "Call me," she whispered in my ear as she pulled away. "Every ending can always make for anew beginning."
I remember she had to stand on her tippy toes. I am not tall, she was not particullary short. She was still smiling, turned from me and left, waving a little wave before she disappeared from sight, around a corner in my mind.
I looked again at Jolene's number. It's permanence on my hand wasn't even permanent, so much like everything else around. I could still feel where her lips had gently kissed my cheek.
I wondered if I would call her. Days later I still wonder, although I know the answer. There's and emptiness inside me, small, tiny almost but nagging and persistant. She stole something from me and I want it back. The only problem is that I don't know what it is. I didn't even know it was there until she took it but it's mine and I want it back. Jolene.