The cashier

The young cashier dragged each of our grocery items across the scanner, his moves smooth and slow. His expression was neutral—serene even?—but I knew that look; his soul was back at home, sapped by life and hiding under the covers.

I shopped at Trader Joe’s with my girl Flicka that October day, and our trip was more for fun than necessity. The location—Shoreview, Minnesota—was new to us, creating an adventure. And we smiled at our favorite of all adverse weather, a rainstorm, dampening the world outside the glass.

But this person in front of us now… What was his story?

I switched my focus to our small stash on the conveyer belt, forcing my thoughts back to the task.

“Thirty-seven forty-five,” the cashier said, his voice soft.

I inserted my debit card. Waiting for the prompts to complete the purchase, I glanced at Flicka. She had already bagged the items, and now her gaze was fixed on the employee serving us.

We carried our bags from the store and crossed the slick parking lot. I blinked away the pelting raindrops, hoping the sky would wash away my thoughts about the cashier while it was at it. My girl reached into the bag and extracted a pomelo. She hopped into the passenger side, and I slid behind the wheel.

As I drove, she peeled the large citrus fruit.

“Looks like a mess waiting to happen,” I said.

“It’ll be fine, Mom.” She grinned, tearing off a section of flesh, and held it out for me.

I took a bite. “Tastes like grapefruit.”

She chewed the fruit too, but her smile eased off, her eyebrows coming together. “That cashier was profoundly sad.”

“Yeah.” My heart pinched. “I saw it too.”

“I’ve known people like that. It’s hard to watch.”

“I know.”

As we drove along 694 West, my girl and I went silent. Then together, we gave away our worries about the cashier to the One who kept his days and knew what it took for him to get out of bed each morning.

And we left it there.

 

One day two weeks ago, I lugged groceries in from the car. Rain drizzled the April landscape, droplets darkening the brown paper bags I carried. As I fumbled with the door, down came the memories, soaking me.

The Trader Joe’s guy—that cashier—from six months ago… Where was he today? Was he okay?

My memory of his face, although blurry, reminded me of the weight of his life. A pang swept through my chest. Again, I released the guy’s unknown-to-me story into bigger hands than my own.

And I left it there.

 

On Monday, Flicka and I savored an hour on the couch with the dog and coffee before our day’s schedules split us apart.

“You know who I just thought of yesterday?” my girl said between sips.

I swallowed some dark roast and shook my head.

“That cashier at Trader Joe’s from months ago. The sad one.”

A lurch in my stomach. “I just thought about him the other day too.”

Her eyes widened. “Really?”

“Do you think he’s still there?” A dark thought tiptoed into my mind. “Still… alive?”

“If we’re both thinking about him now, yes.” My girl’s wisdom wrapped around me like a hug. And I knew she was right.

And so together, we did it again; we gave away the cashier at Trader Joe’s to the One who still sees him and gives him breath.

And we left it there.

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*Names in this blog have been changed to protect my family and friends in the neighborhood, and in a nod of appreciation to the beloved Swedish author Maj Lindman, I’ve renamed my three blondies Flicka, Ricka, and Dicka.