An Open Relationship With My Bodega Man
My platonic, but not real at all, relationship with my bodega clerk
Am I dating my bodega man? He definitely knows more about me than anyone I've recently dated in the last couple of years. Not to say I'm not already an open book anyway, but we've seemed to break through the bodega exchange barrier.
Good Ole Maurice
Maurice is the man of the hour and behind the counter. We go way back. (In this case, way back means early 2019. But hasn't this year felt like a decade already?)
During my first weekend living in Brooklyn, I needed some household essentials: cleaning supplies, toilet paper, snacks, random stuff I surely "needed," and beer. Because you're not officially moved into a new place until you've christened your new, empty apartment with pizza and beer on the floor.
Maurice is my tried and true. He’s always open. The store is always stocked. He's always kind to everyone who comes and goes. A real 10 out of 10 gem. He's become a steadfast confidante, completely involuntary. Somehow we've become pretty tight and I see him almost on a daily basis at this point. Even if I don't need something, I pop in to say hi. Usually, he greets me with a new joke of the day.
The other day he told me one that had me in stitches:
Why couldn't the baby Jesus be born in New York?
Because they couldn't find 3 wise men or a virgin.
When Heather Met Maurice...
We're quite an unexpected pair, him and I, finding companionship (or any kind of “ship” for that matter) in such a seemingly in-and-out place. It’s not your normal meeting space to get to know people, but our offbeat relationship is one I cherish sometimes more than some new friends I’ve made since moving to New York.
Mostly because he sees me at my most vulnerable, most tired, most hungover, most hurried state and he never fails to always have something nice to say. Always making me feel like I make his day and he mine. Sometimes I find myself hanging around for a few minutes after I check out to listen to him talk and hear how his family’s doing, know everyone’s still healthy, and the bodega cat is still alive.
Midnight is a special breed of bodega cat. She’s been around for a whopping lucky 13 years. She’s a Manx without a tail and has one clipped ear from a fight which Maurice retells this anecdote with so much pride. Apparently Midnight beat the shit out of a raccoon and has lived to tell the tail tale.
The cream cheese to my bagel
How close are me and the bodega man? What does he know that others don’t? Here’s are a list of ways Maurice, aka Mr. Bodega man of the year, knows me best and a brief history of our budding relationship:
-He’s aware when I’m almost running out of clean clothes and it’s laundry day, as I’m coming in for the cheaper detergent because I refuse to pay for the overpriced kind conveniently at the laundromat.
-He knows I’m balling on a budget. He cuts me a deal every now and then, meaning when I want avocado on my sandwich, he won’t charge me.
-Every Sunday morning after a night out with friends, he’s got my go-to bacon, egg, and cheese with a side of Pedialyte ready on lock.
-He knows my cycle - when I can’t decide between Little Debbies or Milano mint chocolate cookies to go with my Tampax and Midol.
-When I’m feeling lucky on a random Tuesday, he knows I want two Lucky 7 scratch-offs to go with my peanuts and coke.
-Graciously, he reminds me I’m looking great and that my smile wakes up his day. (He doesn’t believe me, but his smile brings me joy too.)
-When it’s been a long day, he knows my favorite snacks and is sure to remind me that he’s ordered more Smartfood popcorn just for me.
Here's to never breaking up
One day, Maurice will retire from his days manning the store, that is inevitable. I hope we enjoy as much time together as possible with whatever time we have left. He's become a staple in the neighborhood. He's a low-key block celebrity, confidante, sound advice-giver, to some a father-figure, but mostly a friend.
There's never any judgment coming from him. (Well, at least not directly at me. Who knows what ole Maurice gossips about after I leave.) No weird expectations to meet. No obligations to talk or see each other. I mean, I'm a low maintenance gal, but this really takes the cake on most attainable, stress-free relationships! There's a mutual understanding that he's got my back and I make him laugh sometimes.
Most of all, I can count on him. And that's hard to find these days! There was one time I needed one, just one, stamp to actually physically mail something. (Slowly slides one, free single stamp across the counter.) It's the little things.
In the first few months of the pandemic, he was sometimes the only soul I saw or talked to for days or weeks. He's always looking out for me making sure I have enough masks and hand sanitizer at all times. (He's got a two hand-sanis for $2 special going right now for a limited time.)
No matter how many awkward first dates I go on, friends I make, or people I meet in this city, I'm pretty confident there is only one Maurice. We're always delighted to see each other again like two high school reunion buddies... Like I didn't just see you yesterday, Maurice.