Meltdown in an Exxon
I naively wondered if anything would ever wreck my world enough for me to wail in the middle of an Exxon
Once on a Tuesday evening I went to a gas station to fill up my car's tank, get some beer to go with the frozen pizza I was planning to eat for dinner, and see if they had any of the brands of protein shakes I like – they didn’t. The sun had just slipped behind the large, sky-scrapper-like buildings and there was only a little bit of light lingering in the sky as I made my way across the parking lot to the bright florescent entrance of the Exxon.
Things in this gas station seemed to be operating normally – at least as normal as things in a gas station can operate in downtown Nashville right after sunset during COVID-19.
When I walked inside, I noticed a dirt-covered man with blood shot eyes stocking up on 40’s and cigarettes plus a couple of young kids with sagging pants loitering in the bakery section. I subconsciously put my head down as I made my way to the back towards the coolers.
As I passed the chips section, I heard someone crying - sobbing would better describe the sounds coming from this woman. Deep wails slid up her throat as she sucked down her snot. I tried not to impose too much on her meltdown, but I had to slide by to get into the beer cooler. She didn’t seem to notice me as I nearly brushed her shoulder.
Alone in the icy beer cooler, browsing seltzers and pale ales, I wondered if I should say something encouraging on the way out or at the very least acknowledge her. We were however, in the middle of a pandemic and I hadn't had too many quick conversations with strangers in months. Nobody really had. With everyone covered by their masks, it was often awkward to spark up a conversation with someone new. Not to mention, it was usually difficult to hear sometimes due to everyone's mouths being covered by fabric. I made up my mind: I should leave her alone in her devastation and I would buy the Sweetwater pale ales.
When I exited the cooler, I was greeted by the sounds of her muffled sobs. She was in the same place I had left her, but now her face was buried into the chest of a man that was at least two heads taller than her. I couldn’t make out anything she was saying, but the man kept repeating, “I know, baby, I’m so sorry. It’s all gonna be okay.”
My initial thought was that he was her boyfriend and he had screwed up somehow by cheating or lying or maybe even stealing. But for some reason, that didn’t feel accurate, her whimpers held too much agony for it to be that petty. I thought about some of my bad days and lowest points and I naively wondered if anything would ever wreck my world enough for me to wail in the middle of an Exxon.
When I made it to the counter, I slid my items under the thin plastic curtain that separated me from the cashier - a safety protocol that was somehow supposed to prevent us from spreading germs to each other. I pulled my ID out and handed it to her.
“You care if I scan it?”
“Go for it,” I told her.
“Ain’t gonna get flagged or nothing, right? You on the run from anyone?” she joked. From the crinkles around her eyes, I could tell she was smiling underneath her mask.
I chuckled and hoped my own smile creases were visible. “Nope, not on the run,” I assured her. “At least not tonight.”
Her laugher echoed through the cashier’s chubby. “Well, shoot! You must be having a good night then.” Her eyes quickly darted to the woman somewhere behind us.
“I am indeed having a good night,” I promised her as I grabbed my bag.
I made my way to the exit and submerged myself into the cool, crisp air of the night, eager to get home to my cat and my frozen pizza. The woman inside, likely still wailing, was fresh on my mind, and I couldn't help but feel a sadness for our society as we coped with the impacts of socially distancing ourselves from humanity.
There are no comments for this story
Be the first to respond and start the conversation.