This being her second visit to the grocery store, with its blinding fluorescent light and constant A/C, she came prepared. The wool sweater, a gift from her best friend back in Nairobi, smells of incense and coal, the scent of safe secrets, closeness, and familiarity. Its fabric caresses her chin as she exhales a memory not far away in time, but distant in space. She looks around to see if others, too, had their breaths and dreams crystallized for a brief moment and ruthlessly stolen again and again as they aimlessly rummaged for deals on frozen dinners.
She used to anticipate talking and touching vegetables; a cabbage in the palm of her hand, its aroma sharing stories of sun and soil. “Best One!” the boy-seller cajoled, regardless of her selection. She kissed teeth; he smiled. The first time she brought a cantaloupe to her nose in Toronto, the entire display cascaded onto the floor, causing everyone to stare, which made her feel small.
Today, she was on a mission and briskly walked to the produce section. She picked up a plastic container of spinach, leaflets cut from the roots and incarcerated in a cold transparent cell. She abandoned the idea of being able to feel, to brush her hands across living surfaces. She had to trust what the new gods declared; that all these packages are uniform and that uniformity is good. Trust that since it says “Triple-filtered wash,” that the machines prepped it like how Bibi did back home. Word is bond.
In the express cash, she pulled out a five dollar bill. “$4.99 plus tax, ma’am,” said the cashier.
She didn’t have enough.