dear lady

Dear lady in the check-out line at Sobeys who the whole time the cashier rang in your stuff you were on the phone… So how ARE you? Uh huh, uh huh…. and in this way you managed to ignore her, the cashier I mean, even as she gave you the amount and set up the ATM machine and thanked you and printed out your receipt and handed it to you… all during that you never once made eye contact… And how is Brittany? Uh huh… oh wow… uh huh…

Yes, it’s true, I was watching you. And listening. Forgive me. I assumed you wouldn’t mind given how your personal space (and everyone else’s) doesn’t seem overly important to you. Forgive me also for any sarcasm you may detect in this note, of which there is plenty, especially if Brittany, et al, are in the throes of dysentry or scurvy and you are their ward nurse, checking in (though even that could probably have waited until you were in the parking lot).

Mostly, dear lady, I’m writing to say how much you missed. The cashier was a lovely person and when, after you left, it was my turn, and I said to her, in an exaggerated way: So, how are YOU?…  she got it and laughed (please don’t think we were mocking you although we were) and then as she rang in my yellow tulips and my spinach we talked about Spring and she said she was thinking of planting her first garden ever in Canada this year, flowers mostly, and I suggested including a few tomatoes and some lettuce and she said she would do that even if her husband thought she was mental. And I said good. Because the world needs more gardens.

That is what the world needs, dear lady. Gardens. And conversations with people who are standing right in front of you.


On my way to the store a pony-tailed woman approaches, power-walking with two others in her wake; she’s speaking loudly and I prepare to nod, say good morning, but the ponytail doesn’t make eye contact, too busy rattling on…

“I said to him, I asked him, I said do you like my hair better up or down and he said, I don’t know, hair is hair and I said yeah, I know, but do you think I look prettier with it up or…”

In the moment we pass each other, I notice her walk-mates catch my eye—no words, just a please, please can you help us?? kind of look that makes me smile, glad to be stepping out alone.

A girl, maybe five years old, sits on a big comfy chair at the library, skinny bare legs stick straight out on the seat, pink sneakered feet barely reach the edge. She holds up a picture book the way a teacher would, turns the pages clumsily but with concentration, tongue between teeth; she talks out loud as if reading the story to a class but no one is there except an older woman flipping through a magazine in the chair opposite. The girl closes one book, picks up another from the small stack on her lap, holds it open beside her cheek, peeks around at the pictures while doing her teacher talk, then suddenly turns to the woman: 

“What do you think Michael is making us for lunch?” she says.

The woman barely raises her head, mumbles… “I don’t know, we’ll have to wait and see.”

“Okay,” says the girl. And holds up the next book.

Two elderly people in a waiting room, the woman says to the man: “Of course we had the house built, chose the lot and everything—on the first of September it’ll be 53 years since we moved in.”

“When you moving out?” says the man.

“First of September.”