As a man who finds serenity in food, I almost always enjoy “making groceries” as those from certain parts of the south might say. On Friday, I spent some time at a local market getting provisions for a very busy food weekend. While jawjacking with my fishmonger, an attractive 30something with an unmistakable Boston accent came to the counter.
Since we were just talking about food geek stuff, I offered to let her order ahead of me. Just before turning attention to the woman in the I-Must-Be-An-Attorney pant-suit, the fishmonger said to me “Oh, I didn’t forget about your head-on shrimp, Refugee; I’ll have em’ for you next week.”
The Suspected Attorney (who had the most perfect and perfectly appointed lips) ordered a couple pounds of crab legs before pausing for a moment to ask me “why would you want head-on shrimp, isn’t that just more work?”
“Yes, it’s most certainly more work” I began. “But two things – one, I like slow food and the process of making it, so when I’m making shrimp bisque I like to make the shrimp stock myself instead of getting it from the shelf; and nothing makes shrimp stock like the heads.”
“And two” she volleyed back.
“Well, two was going to be me making a lame joke about how you would really need to taste my food to understand… but I thought better of it.”
“You thought better of the lame joke as invitation or thought better of the invitation itself” she said with a smile that elicited a butterfly feeling I haven’t known for quite some time.
“Let’s go with the former” I said with an admittedly sheepish chuckle.
We talked some more about food, some of my menu for the weekend, and her plans too. It had all of the hallmarks of one of those surely apocryphal stories about two city dwellers meeting in a grocery store. Even the fishmonger winked at me as we walked away our carts headed in the same direction.
Whether it was me actively trying not to jinx things, be too assertive, or my flirting skills were just a bit rusty, I suggested that we meet in the check-out line to continue the conversation.
After doing a couple of unnecessary laps around the frozen food aisle, I found The Suspected Attorney in the bakery section and we went towards the cashiers. I wasn’t certain that coffee or drinks would be in the immediate offing (I did get some ice from the fishmonger just in case) but I was fairly confident that we would exchange at least one mechanism for communication.
We stood several people back in the slightly longer than usual lines and after a couple of minutes of random chatter, I asked “I know that you have some perishables in your bag so a quick drink right now might be a risky offer, but one I extend nonetheless… and if you can’t or won’t accept now, I do hope you’ll take a raincheck.”
“I can’t do drinks right now” The Suspected Attorney said in sail-deflating tone. “I’ve got people coming over to my place, but… maybe you can give me a call this weekend and we can set something up” she said while handing me her business card.
Sails restored to full extension.
I gave her my card too while we changed the subject back to our respective plans for the weekend.
Apropos of nothing in particular, The (Now Confirmed) Attorney let out a sigh of frustration at the slowness of our line and said “Ugghh, you know don’t take this the wrong way – I’m glad I met you – but I should have known better than to shop on the 1st of the month.”
“Yeah, I imagine that the holiday weekend is making this place more crowded.”
“Sure, the holiday weekend, but you know what happens on the first of the month right?” she asked in tone that indicated I really should have known the answer.
“Sorry, I don’t quite follow… well, lots of people get paid on the first so that could be contributing to it.”
“Not just that” she stated with more animation than I had previously seen, “The government gives out welfare today, welfare and food stamps, and unemployment too! I try to avoid shopping around now, but I always seem to forget and then get stuck in line behind Latifah, the Welfare Queen.”
I suspect that The (Now Confirmed) Attorney read my expression and wanted to clarify her statement – I didn’t give her the opportunity.
“I’m thinking we should probably stop talking now” I stated in as flat and unaffected tone as possible.
“Listen I give to charities, and do community service projects with my sorority, but I just think…”
“You just think that people who need help are a drain on the public coffers. Seriously, we should just stop talking” I said as she began to move her groceries to the belt… and I tried to say it as harmlessly as possible.
The conversation ended there and my disappointment and annoyance were milder than I would have expected. And then I got to the exit.
The (Now Confirmed) Attorney was waiting for me just outside the doors.
“What the Fuck, Refugee? I’m not some crazy-stalker-broad but I thought that we had some kind of connection and I’d love to know why you are willing to trash that – before we even find out if we really like each other – because of some political bullshit.” [ed. note: I really wish there was a Boston Accent font]
“(Now Confirmed) Attorney, I understand the desire to know things… and since we have clearly taken a flame-thrower to our bridge, I am comfortable telling you: it’s not enough to be nice to me, when you’re mean to the weakest of our people… well I don’t reference the bible very often, but to paraphrase ‘whatever you do to the least of my people you do unto me.’ Being nice to your friends doesn’t make one a good person when you’re mean to people for whom there’s no consequence to being mean. And blaming the poor and unemployed for being broke and jobless is just mean… and not for nothing, that Welfare Queen Latifah line was what shifted things from disagreements to be discussed to I don’t need people like you in my life.”