Amalia Rudolfina Tregalina was swaying around outside the grocery store on a sunny afternoon the day before Canada Day. Maybe she wss drunk, maybe she was simply free to be the girl who was still caught inside her middle aged body. First, she mumbled about wanting change. Then she was specific.
“No, I want macaroni and cheese and…some ground beef.” She spoke with the kind of rhythm that deaf people do, swallowing words, rounding them off. I had to stay close to make sense of what she was saying. She brought out the mother in me. The person buried under my cleverness. I know the empty pleasures of things like macaroni and cheese, so I suggested a sandwich. Amalia agreed, laughing, bowing her head. Then she vented a little bit of childlike frustration. “I want to cook! Macaroni and cheese…” Her eyes welled up with tears; they fell out like blobs of plastic onto her dry, scaly face. I waited. “Okay, a sandwich,” she said, pulling up her tattered polyester leggings.
nside the store, I scoped out the deli offerings. There were almost-expired heroes, submarine concoctions that were paired with pop as some kind of “lunch special.” I knew I couldn’t force my idea of health on her, but I didn’t want to give her the kind of crap that her drinking was making her crave. The obese counter attendant, a new arrival from some East Asian country, was confused when I asked for a fresh sandwich; she had to ask her supervisor—another obese woman—who told me that since tomorrow was Canada Day, they only had what was on the shelf.