” Come.in. Myyyyyy. BUTTHOLE.”
In a line for the register so deep that it wrapped around the produce aisle, I had gotten stuck in front of the only drunk in the grocery store. It was ten thirty five. AM. Mothers and children in carts drifted all around. I was clutching an inappropriately early lunch in my hands, and I knew it.
” Come in my butthole,” he hissed again, a lot less cheerfully this time. I pulled out my phone, to look casual, to look less alone, but couldn’t coax my shoulders down from where they had shot up to my ears.
This was the beginning of a thirteen minute performance, in which the drunk, wearing an American flag T- shirt neatly tucked into black jeans, launched into a simple but thematized treatise on, ( in his own words) ” jizim” and its many uses in our life and times. He danced to the tune of his own obscene religion, spun from his own foul fabrications, for my benefit, but mostly so that he could offer up my sorrow and my fear to his god, the demented being inside him that led him to change the words to ” We Are Family” and “Funkytown” both. The line inched forward. Together, we circled the dairy section and the poultry section. No- one took notice, and so he chanted on, alone in a crowded room, a six- pack swinging cheerfully from one hand. It occured to me that he had been the man in the crosswalk on the way in, spewing bile onto the street. I kept an eye out for children. I turned my back. I pushed the list of contacts on my phone up and down over and over again. Every vile word landed on the exposed skin of my back like a lash.
” TEEENIE,” he squealed, and the last syllable lasted four seconds too long. I turned, ready to defend the hem of my skirt. He actually was waving cheerfully at a passing toddler, but saw me looking, and after the child had moved on, whispered out of the corner of his mouth, “Put. It. In. MyButt.”
That was it. I panicked, and ran to the cash register when they called my number, quietly paid, ran from the scene, ran two avenues over, sat on a bench, now too poor to order a coffee in a crowded teahouse full of mothers and children, or anywhere equally reassuring, only able to sit on a bench clutching a salad I never wanted to eat, but did in fact eat, three hours later, when I got hungry while writing applications for jobs anywhere but in New York.
It is these boots, I thought. Every time.