She came barreling down the aisle with her black woolen hat perched cockeyed on top of wiry, gray hair. “What time have you got?” she barked, her voice gravelly but Southern soft on the edges.
“I’m sorry,” I said, glancing down and miming at my wrist. “I don’t have a watch or a phone.”
With a huff, she rolled her eyes toward the ceiling and thrust her cart through the narrow opening beside me. I backed out of her way, knocking packages of mascara tubes to the floor with the hem of my winter coat.
Where was she going in such a hurry?
I returned to the shopping list in my hand and walked on, searching the next display rack for the right shade of concealer, which I can never find.
Five minutes later, I crossed the store looking for my husband, who had given up waiting on me and taken the cart in search of household cleaning supplies, which he can never find. And there she was again—I spotted her dark woolen hat bobbing along in front of me. She moved slowly now and weaved back and forth down the aisle, like a child learning to ride a bicycle. Straight lines grow crooked with age.
I veered off the main aisle to pass her, weaving my way through racks of toddler clothes, and wondered if she’d think I was following her. You can never be too wary, I remember my grandmother saying.
Later I stood waiting with my husband in the checkout line, laughing together at the results of our last-minute shopping attempt before the Super Bowl: all chips, no dip. I looked up to see if the other lines were moving faster, and there she was, standing alone and scowling at the cashier three aisles down.
When was the last time she smiled? When was the last time she laughed?
I lost sight of her as we paid for our items and carried our bags to the car, and I forgot about her as we rushed home through busy traffic and grand plans for the evening.
But today, I remember that little old lady in the bedraggled black hat, and I wonder if I was kind when she asked me for the time. Did I look her in the eyes, or was I distracted, lost in my own world of thought?
Everyone has a story to tell.
Where did she come from with that misplaced Southern drawl?
Where was she going? Did she make it on time?
And who was there to greet her when she got home?
I hope they made her smile.