The checkout line of the local grocery store in the home town you left behind might be the single most torturous place. I tried to keep my eyes forward and avoid eye contact as I paid for my frozen dinner and dessert and hoped to get the hell out of dodge before I had to talk to someone I knew, but hadn’t talked to in 15 years.
“Sam Ross?” I heard a woman’s voice chime from behind me.
I couldn’t help but utter the word “fuck,” drawing a grin from the high school-aged checkout girl who rang up my Lean Cuisine and Dots.
I put the smallest smile humanly possible on my face and looked over my shoulder to see a woman with a poof of frizzy gray hair standing at my hip with an armful of groceries sloppily spread across the chest of the dirty Garfield Christmas sweatshirt she wore in September. I don’t think I had actually seen the woman since I was eight or nine years old, but I instantly recognized her as Barbara Daniels, the woman who ran the daycare I went to when I was very young.
I stuck my credit card in the machine and started the process of paying for my groceries before I spoke.
Barbara’s cracked lips spread into a wide smile across her wrinkled face.
“Yeah, I can’t believe you’ve grown into…a man,” Barbara said.
The cashier handed me my receipt and gave me a stern look which suggested I move on, but I lingered.
“When I used to watch you, you were like this tall,” Barbara said and then held her hand flat at about the level of my waist.
“Yeah, yeah,” I agreed.