Walmart. The cereal aisle. I’m browsing a wall of colorful boxes. I’m interrupted by the voice of a child. A kid is riding on the front of a buggy like George Washington crossing the Delaware. His mother is driving. His father is following.
The kid is making airplane noises.
The child is small. His joints are bony. His skin is pale. He is bald. There is a half-moon-shaped scar on his scalp. Another scar travels down the back of his neck.
He jumps off the cart. His tennis shoes hit the floor hard with a loud squeak.
“Can I buy EVERY kinda cereal?" he asks.
“You’re not going to feel like cereal after surgery,” his father says.
“Let’s wait until surgery’s over,” adds his mother. “Once you’re better, then you can have as many boxes as you want.”
The boy is younger than young. Barely out of toddlerhood. He looks sick. And the parents’ words just hang in the air.
Next I see his mother and father scoop him into their arms. I have to leave the aisle quickly because of the prickling behind my nose and eyes.
All of a sudden, I am in the produce section. I see a Mexican family. They are standing in a huddle, speaking rapid-fire Español.
The youngest girl—maybe 10 years old—is teaching two adult women to speak English. The girl holds an onion toward them.
“UN-yun,” she says.
They adults say, “OWN-YOAN.”
The girl laughs. The women laugh and remark, “Qué difícil es inglés.”
Which, you know, is so true.
Next I pass two elderly women, sharing the same walker to putter through the dairy department. They are having a heated conversation loud enough to affect the climate.
“Are we out of cheese?” says one.
“How should I know? You wrote the list, Charlene.”
“Don’t snap my head off, it was just a question.”
“Don’t gimme that. You’re always blaming…