Whenever I come in here, I invariably think of my own boys, at home asleep in their beds, still a few years from such trouble (or do they already dream of midnight at the Slurpee machine?).
Two tattooed white kids in silk sweat suits step to the line behind me and I tense a little, double-pat my wallet. The fat one juggles a half-rack of malt-liquor forties while his partner rolls away to yell in his cell, “Chulo! Don’ do shit ’til we get there, yo.” The door closes behind the cell-phoned gangbanger and I’m finally at the front of this line with my milk-“Hey Rahjiv”-when something goes terribly wrong at the soda fountain and the clerk and I turn together, drawn by a hydroponic squeal from deep inside the cave of a blue hoody. A pierced, lank-haired skater, board strapped to his back, has spilled his 72-ounce Sprite and now believes it is…the funniest…fucking…thing…in the world, and Rahjiv nods wearily at me again, no doubt wishing he were back cutting craniums at Mumbai General. He casually swings my jug past the scanner.
Then he hands me my milk. For the boys. For their cereal. In the morning.
It’s like nine dollars a gallon.
I also think of my mother when I come in here. She was dying several years back and became obsessed with the terrorist attacks in New York. I hated that she should be so wracked with random anxieties as she wasted away, thumb jacking the morphine pump like it could save her life-it couldn’t-her fear of dying manifested as a fear of things she had no reason to fear anymore: random crime, global warming…and most of all, terrorists on airplanes. “Matt?” she asked right before she died, “Do you think there will be another 7/11?” I thought about correcting her, but I just said, “No, Mom, there won’t be any more 7/11s.”
“Nice slippers, yo,” says the cell-phone banger when I come outside with my milk.