Trader Joe’s Train Wreck


The lady was standing in front of me, waiting with a chocolate bar and a sickly, green smoothie at the counter.  She was nervous and clumsy, bumping into the check-out, laughing oddly to herself.  She was chatty, but plain: a tall, thin middle-age woman in a tight ski jacket and khaki pants.  Her hair was short, her glasses silver and small.

I went to Trader Joe’s with my boyfriend, Johnny, as a way to ease the depression that had been creeping in for weeks.  Miles of gray skies and low March temperatures felt oppressive, as if all the color had been sucked out of my world and replaced with ash.  I went looking for salted peanut butter and cheap coffee, to stare at the yuppies buying lobster puffs and gluten free bread for some free fun, if fun could be had at all.

“I thought I’d get a smoothie, to go with my wine.  I mean, it’s healthy right? And I’ve had a tough day.  I haven’t drank for three years,” she said like we were the closest friends.

“Oh?” I wondered what type of person drinks a smoothie with wine. Let alone a “Green Machine” all thick and full of kelp and carrots.

“But don’t tell my fiancé, alright? He hasn’t drank since he was 22.  But I can drink.  I just haven’t.  I’m just having a small, small glass.  Ha, ha,” she trailed off.

What was I to say?  I was witnessing a train wreck in slow motion:  Her excuses, her clumsy arms and legs, her tiny shrugs and nervous laughs, all pointed to a relapse in the works.  And I know those slivers of time where everything is about to crash and you’re almost standing outside yourself watching as you make the wrong choice that will destroy pieces of your life either in a quick crash or in a slow death.  I’ve been there too many times before.

I wanted to tell her all of this, to somehow freeze time and shake her senseless because the dominoes were already falling: lies breed lies and that ring on your finger won’t be there much longer if you pop that cork.

Instead, I laughed.  I said, “Don’t worry, I don’t know your fiancé.” And she quickly picked up her small bag and started walking to the door, still bumbling and babbling about nothing and everything at the same time, her voice trailing off, getting lost when the automated doors cut her off.


7 Responses to “Trader Joe’s Train Wreck”

  1. 1 BehindMyBooks

    I love this. I can’t entirely put into words why, but I just do. This is wonderful.

  2. 3 Nell

    Great line, “lies breed lies and that ring on your finger won’t be there much longer if you pop that cork” – this will stay with me for some time now, thanks.

  3. This is great! I enjoy reading your posts and writing 🙂

  4. This is great! I enjoy reading your posts and writing – always a fun and new way of viewing a scene.

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