“Can you go to the pharmacy and pick up my codine for me?” a man whispered to me in a loud voice.
I was standing in the health food store comparing different gluten-free breads and was nearly giddy at the varieties. There were at least five times as many choices for bread products than any store I have ever shopped in. A low-carb gluten free pumpernickel bread? Yes please!
I stepped back from this American man and tried to figure out why he was talking to me. Did I know him?
“Do I know you?”
He was American. Taller than me, clean cut. In his thirties. Cute. Had that desperate look on his face of someone who needed a fix. Red eyes. Tired. Agitated. Nervous. No boundaries.
He mumbled, quickly. “I just need someone to buy it for me. That’s all.”
Opioid addiction is a serious problem back home. Guess this man was traveling Europe to stock up on supplies. I think that pharmacies around the world report your medical purchases to your home country.
I know a guy who once went on a cruise to South America to stock up on opioids. They didn’t arrest him until the cruise landed back in New Orleans. He had a rough time in the NOLA prison until his father was able to spring him.
The courts promised him random drug tests for years: one bad test and he’d be back in that same overcrowded and underfunded jail for ten years with a zero chance for parole.
The fear of returning to that prison cured his addiction. Nope. He wouldn’t discuss what it was like in there. Yes, I asked
I was insulted that this guy thought I might buy his drugs for him.
I looked him in the eye and said in a loud, slow voice. “Not a chance.”
He dismissed me with a wiggle of his shoulder and stood on line at the register.
I was so glad to have enough energy to buy food. It was my fourth (and final?) day in quarantine after testing positive for Covid. This morning I masked up and went to a convenience store and asked if there were any eggs.
The girl restocking dehydrated soups onto a low shelf said no. The boy restocking beer glared at her, stood up and stomped into the back while calling back to me in Polish. He returned with a case of eggs.
I chose one carton of eggs and opened the lid to check inside. One egg was stuck to the carton, a sign that it had a crack and shouldn’t be eaten. I tried to explain to the girl that I wanted to buy a different carton of eggs, but she closed the carton, rolled her eyes and charged me the full price.
Ok. Fine. I’ll remember not to eat that rotten egg.
I was considering a small bag of almonds at the health food store when I heard the man approach the young woman at the register. He asked her if they sold codine.
“Excuse me?” she asked politely.
I stood behind the man and shook my head in a “NO” fashion, back and forth. I didn’t want her to take the time to research what he was asking. The girl caught my eye.
He took out his phone and put the information into a translation program.
“Oh.” She said, brightly. “You can buy this one at the pharmacy.”
He stepped forward. “Can you buy it for me? I’ve reached my limit.”
She said, “You buy it pharmacy.” She pointed down the block. “One there.”
He backed away and I purchased my gluten-free bread and some vegan cream cheese to go with it because I recognized the brand and knew for sure what was in the tub.
As I was leaving the store, he asked the cashier to purchase his drugs for him.
I hesitated at the door, not wanting to leave her alone with him.
She repeated her bright, helpful reminder as to where the pharmacy was.
He wiggled his shoulder at her and left the store.
The girl caught my eye and we both raised our eyebrows at each other. Can you believe that?
The next customer came forward, so I waved my goodbye and started my ten minute walk home.
The park was beautiful. Wet. Trees dripping from an earlier rainstorm. I had to take small steps so I didn’t fall on the slick cobblestones.
A fast new rain began a fast pour, rousing the homeless from their reclining positions.
I put on my extra-large raincoat and positioned the hood over my head and the sides around my purchases. This raincoat can cover me, my purse and my groceries. Who cares if it makes me look like a cyclops? I like dry bread.
I walked home along the tram tracks and stopped to take a video of the quiet street. I had just put away my phone when a tram raced by.
All of the water laying along the tracks was sprayed over me—a blanket of water. No matter how big that raincoat is, water seeped through the buttoned front, all over my face and covered my feet with so much water that I squeaked as I walked on.
Sopping wet me. Dry bread.
That works for me.
I laughed with some women who saw the onslaught, then I squeaked on.
At the apartment I unpacked my purchases and stacked them on the bottom of the shelf-less fridge.
This was exactly the apartment I wanted. Windows that open AND air conditioning. The cool part of town. A place to write. Safe area. Roomy. A window seat and a kitchenette.
There was a music concert outside last night just down the street from me. My fever started its slow rise and I was still in quarantine, so I stayed in.
Five hours later the Bruce Springsteen-like singer was going strong—screaming into the mike. How could he know enough songs for five hours of singing? Didn’t he know any quiet songs? A lullaby?
I closed the windows and closed the curtains and turned the air conditioning up high. A noisy room is unfortunate.
Will I stay here after all?
This morning I used the kitchenette for the first time and made myself a pan of scrambled eggs with smoked gouda melted on top.
Home is where you make cheesy eggs.
My Covid scare went from a lion to a kitten; I was 85% improved. None of the other annoyances of the day mattered: I didn’t need the doctor, oh what a relief that was.
I sat on the window seat and counted my gratitudes: I’m healthier, in Poland and I have a window seat.
How lucky I am.
I sat on the cushion on the ledge in front of the window and leaned against the wall. The rain fell fast. People walked or ran or hid under the tree in front of the church.
Umbrellas. No umbrellas. Raincoats. No raincoats.
I watched as a woman walked along the tram tracks. My body tensed, knowing what was coming. The tram came by in a swoosh and covered her in water. She shook her fist at the tram, then held her arms out to the side and tried to shake off the extra water.
It didn’t work. She took off her raincoat and shook it, then put it back on right when the next tram came. Swoosh again.
This time she stood there, a dripping mess, and laughed as she tried to shimmy and dance to get the water off of her.
Although she couldn’t see me, I laughed with her from my window seat.
Thanks for reading.
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