Waiting for a breakfast sandwich at the bodega.
“I can’t get a bag?” asks a woman angrily, as she pays for her can of soda. Thin, probably in her forties, but looking unkempt and sickly enough that it’s hard to tell. The weird kind of too-skinny, where her lips seem shrunken, making her teeth look over large.
“Just get out of here,” says the cashier, in the tone of annoyance at a scene that has been so repeated it’s almost ritual.
“Get the fuck out of here.”
“You won’t give her a bag?” asks one of the pair of slightly younger women still doing their shopping, incredulously.
“Nah. She’ll just drop it right outside. Nut.”
The two woman are skeptical and defensive, as if they know her.
“He’s right. She’s crazy,” says the pale, obese man behind them, short-legged and wheelchair-bound. “Her husband died and she didn’t tell no-one for three days.”
One of the two woman squints and cocks her neck slightly in his direction. “What did you say?” she asks.
Her confusion is understandable. His speech is slurred and hard to understand. Probably a mixture of accent and something else, but it’s hard to tell.
“He was dead, and she was sleeping right there with him for three days,” he repeats and clarifies.
“Yeah, I was friends with him. Nice guy, Colombian. Anyway, I was looking for the guy and couldn’t find him. Three days he was dead and she just kept him there in bed. She crazy.”
The two women are now wide-eyed. Formerly aggrieved at the treatment the other woman had been given by one of the ubiquitous Muslim bodega staff, they seems to have switched sides.
They pay quietly, and leave.
My sandwich is ready. As I am waiting to pay, a young man is trying to negotiate the purchase of a single garbage bag.
“50 cents? I just want one,” he complains.