I stood in line to pay for my cart of groceries exhausted from working at the pharmacy, sorting pills for people who need them, people who think they need them, and some looking to fix what is broken and beyond repair, and in line is a woman I once knew, a friend from pharmacy school who dropped out and went to Paris instead because Paris is a different kind of prescription. Paris is wine and cafes along the Seine. And this woman I knew, who is now a stranger, has unloaded her frozen meals and potato chips and boxed white wine and I think I should say something to her because I had known her once a long time ago; I knew her favorite candy were those terrible circus peanuts that tasted like foam and sugar; I knew she slept with Kevin O’Malley and regretted it enough to cry and make me wonder if it was consensual, and when I pushed, perhaps too hard, I was sure it wasn’t and was even more sure she resented me for leading her to that obvious conclusion. I knew, too, that she drank too much Diet Coke, and later, rum and Diet Coke (though I see neither in her cart now) and snapped Trident gum (also not in her cart) and didn’t watch enough movies to know when I was quoting Jaws or Moonstruck. I’m thinking of all this when she catches me staring at the items she has chosen, and then at her, and I am dizzy and off balance at the knowing and not knowing of her, the intimacy and the void. There’s terrible music playing throughout the store, a song that is only terrible because it’s been played enough to become background noise in soul-crushing stores saturated in florescent lights and people tired from life and repetition, flanked by canned food and tabloid trash and gift cards to box stores that keep people on the wheel. Hey, Meg, she says, taking in my face, its age and wrinkles, my scrubs, my cart full of processed sugar and protein shakes and basically anything that doesn’t come from a recognizable tree or crop or animal, and I am both embarrassed and relieved. I open my mouth, but before I can say anything the clerk has dismissed her and her groceries, threatening her with have a nice evening and the bagger is pulling away her cart of boxed wine and frozen entrees and all I can get out is how was France? And for a few seconds she is somewhere far away and I’m with her on this small escape, we all are because everyone’s eyes are on our exchange as if she’d just gotten back and if hadn’t been 16 years ago. Trés bien, she says, smiling widely and I smile back, an honest smile because I’m happy for her. It’s good to see you, I say. And then we let each other go back to the lives we are living of processed sugar and boxed wine, pinched dreams and those nights we’d rather forget, and I find myself humming the song still playing about finding our reflections and turning around and so too is the clerk and the bagger and we exchange small smiles and pleasantries and genuine excitement over the coming weekend.
SABRINA HICKS — Sabrina lives in Arizona with her family. Her work has appeared in Trampset, Pidgeonholes, Monkeybicycle, Split Lip, Reckon Review, Cheap Pop, Best Small Fictions 2021, and has earned a spot twice on Wigleaf’s Top 50. More of her work can be found at sabrinahicks.com.
FRANCESCA LEADER –Francesca is a self-taught writer and artist whose fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in Wigleaf, Fictive Dream, the J Journal, Leon Literary, CutBank, and elsewhere. Her artwork has appeared in publications such as Scapegoat and FERAL, and will be featured on the cover of the November 2022 issue of Adanna Literary Journal. You can find her on Instagram and Twitter at @moon.in.a.bucket/mooninabucket.