Hot Mama Seeks A Zucchini

Mine eyes scrutinize the packaged, pre-washed greens; mine fingers leaf through the spinach packs, seeking out a Use By or Best By date that’ll satisfy my strict standard of fresh. 

And this woman, 
a fellow shopper 
(although not a fellow fellow), 
likely ten years my senior, 
double-takes me. 

“Nick?” she says. 

what should’ve come out? 
“Yes! How are you?” 
Instead, my mouth goes, 
(As in, “You talkin’ to me?”) 

She says, 
“Are you… 
Is your name: 

And my stupid mouth it 
does it again with, 
But it’s a “No” 
with a smile. 

Not embarrassed, 
at least not overtly, 
she says, 
“You look like my son’s teacher.” 

My stupid head nods; 
my stupider mouth spits out, 

She’s a suburban, 
soccer-mom kind of beauty.* 
she wouldn’t meet central casting’s criteria, 
but I’d certainly consent 
to a “roll in the hay” 
with her. 

So what she’s a little plump? 
Her knockers are watermelon-ous. 

The next stupid thing 
out of my mouth? 
“It happens to everyone: 
mistaken identity.” 

Mine eyes don’t even look 
for a wedding ring. 
(They never do.) 
It’s been so long since
the fuck do I care? 

My stupid, innocuous 
question to her is: 
“What’s his last name?” 

(Stupid because the only Nick I know was in the cast of Khan! A Musical of Wrath, and that guy—besides not being a teacher—looks nothing like me. The Nick I know is tall and thin.) 

But she doesn’t know Nick the Teacher’s last name. 
Or is this part of her come-on? 

My next stupid question? 
“Where does he teach?”
Small Talk,
this is very
Small Talk. 
I’m no good at it. 
Where do the Big Talk people shop? 

Anyway, her Nick teaches at some an elementary school in the area. Naturally. 

She tells me she’s never shopped here before. She’s always shopped at the Dominick’s at Park Ave & US 41. I shopped there, too. It closed forever a few months back. Maybe we were its only regular customers.

The natives are fiercely loyal to Sun Ray’s Finer Foods. 
I’m a habitual trend-bucker. 
I never shop at Sun Ray’s. 
Almost never. 
Pretty much, I like this store. 
“But where that old Dominick’s was,” 
I tell her, 
“it was a Sav-Yeh before.” 

She hadn’t known about Sav-Yeh. She’d only recently moved to this neck of the woods. 

This is my seventh year without Sav-Yeh. I’m still going through the grieving process, still suffering withdrawal. Jewel-Osco, Dominick’s, and Sun Ray’s might as well be methadone alternatives. Sure, having that massive Dominick’s all to myself, any day, any time of the day, rocked my world—but even more so when it was Sav-Yeh. Only, when it was Dominick’s, very nearly everything in the fresh produce section was rot. 

Picture any palace theater you’ve visited. Exempli gratia: The Chicago, or The Uptown, or The Oriental, The New Palace, or The Auditorium. Think that level of elegance / splendor / grandeur. Then, picture the worst little shoe-box mall multiplex you’ve seen a movie in, and there’s your comparison between Sav-Yeh and fill-in-the-blank chained grocery store. 

If I’m being totally honest, when Dominick’s bought the building that Sav-Yeh built, it cheapened the d├ęcor Sav-Yeh left to a depressing degree. 

Anyway, back in this grocery store, the hot mama who mistook me for Nick is looking for, of all things, a zucchini. Never mind there’s a long green zucchini alone in her basket. But she tells me she’s looking for yellow zucchini, for her son’s “special diet.” 

Stupid me, 
I say, 
“Well, good luck.” 

Not two minutes later, 
I happen upon a yellow zucchini. 
I call her over. 

She says, “You’re so kind.” 
And I say, “No problem.” 
And she says, “Thank you.” 
And I say, “No problem.” 
And we repeat this exchange a bunch more times. 
“Thank you.” 
       "No problem.” 
               “Thank you.” 
                        No problem.” 
                                “Thank you.” 
                                       "No problem.”

And then we roll our carts away from each other, forever. 

27 September 2004 

*[01/29/23: I would not encounter the term “MILF” until 2008, when NBC broadcast a 30 Rock episode called, “MILF Island.”] 

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