I have been going to this store for groceries for the past four years. On this nineteenth when I walked in I was heartbroken to find the store empty. They were packing to leave. And were – well… ninety seven percent gone already. The lease was over, I was told. The store had moved to another location. Too far for me. I had not been there in a while – about three weeks. And I returned to find the store shutting down. I was so sad. The little things that we fail to notice. That become routine. Somehow we expect them to be the same. But they do change. Sometimes faster that we can know. And they can mean so much – when they’re over. I knew most of the employees there. I wish I could have met all of them before they left. But somehow I could only meet two of the employees. I took their picture. Took pictures of the store. I told them I was so very sad that they had to leave. They too were sad. And we, it seemed, tried to hold on to this very melancholic departure – perhaps for very different reasons – or the same. Would I know?
And today… when I was leaving for lunch ( I mostly eat out). I met this employee I had been acquainted with for the longest. Again, we talked about how sad both of us were now that the store had shut down. I have known him for about four years (or shall I now say ‘had known’?) and even with his shifts changing – we’ve somehow managed to meet at least once every month. Or should I now say ‘had managed’? When I look back now – I realize there was nothing in particular that we ever talked about. Just a reassuring familiar face in a melee of perplexing unfamiliarity. Amidst aisles full of products. Shelves-full of bar-codes. Amidst Inanimate -lifeless things. Two people crossing paths. For a while. A good while. Befriending. Taking what life had to give and giving away when it had to go.
I took his picture too. And now as I write this – I realize I do not know his name – a name. I need a name with his picture. That’s the way it should have been. But I don’t know it. Never have. Would I ever? I departed. He smiled. We shook hands. I never asked. He never told me. He never told me. And I never asked. I passed him again on my way back. But somehow it seemed awkward to walk up again only to brood over the same misfortune. But had I realized I did not know his name. I would have asked anyway. Hi, all these years, I have never known your name. And now that you’re leaving and I don’t know when we’d meet again – I would like to ask you – what I should have asked when we first met – what is your name? I could have said. But I walked away. And he was history.