It was almost 11:00 p.m. last night and I had to make a run to Walmart for various and sundry necessities, including the fixin's for nachos for Doc. I went in without a cart so that I got only what I needed, nothing more. I wandered the acres to find the diverse items on my list. I checked out with a whispy chashier named Charley who was just about to clock out. It did my heart good to hear his manager question him about whether or not he had taken all of his breaks and that he should start getting ready to go home.
"Have a nice evening," he said as he handed me my change.
"You too," I replied. I always try to look cashiers in the eye when I say this, and mean it too.
"I'm trying," he said.
"Well, it's almost over, right," I said, referring to the conversation with his boss.
"Yep, about fifteen minutes."
"Well," I said as I gathered my bags, "Have a good night."
I mused for a moment on how much working at Walmart must suck. As I walked passed the cash register corrale, I was struck by the fact that it was an odd hour to be out shopping. The late hour coupled with the jarring flourescent lighting made the experience seem down right surreal. The white-blue, thousand-watt, glow penetrated my optic nerve and made me feel unsettled and out of place, like maybe I was living in Los Angeles or Tiajuana, instead of Canton, Ohio. This feeling of transplantation has hit me many times over the year and a half since I moved back. Sometimes, I indeed feel like a stranger in a strange place; certainly, not everything is as I left it.
I tried to shake loose this feeling of being an immigrant as I walked passed the closed gates of the optomitrist, the pretzel shop, and the Subway. People were wandering around kind of like zombies. I exited the store past a security guard who was talking on his cell phone and paying attention to no one.
The fresh air and darkness came as a relief as I walked into the night. I was still feeling out of place and began to watch the many passers-by with light suspicion and wariness. A couple of young toughs dressed in black crossed my path as I made my way to my car. They slowed down and one of them lifted his shirt to show the other one his tattoos, I presumed. This is what I overheard:
"See?" Thug One asked as he held up his shirt. His small frame and flat, inked stomach glowed under the parking lights. "There it is."
"How'd that happen?" Thug Two asked.
"Well," he said with a smirk, I'm sure, "My friend had a knife out and said he was going to stab me, I told him he didn't have the balls to do it, so he stabbed me. There's the scar."
"Awww, man!" Thug Two said.
Their laughs faded away as I finally arrived at my car. It struck me that this is the kind of conversation that I had heard in almost every place I've ever lived. It left me feeling a little bit more at home. Ah home, Same assholes, different address.