[The scene: one of three checkout counters at Whole Earth, small organic fruit and vegetable store patronized mainly by Princeton “intelligentsia.” It also stocks some organic processed foods, dairy, and ecologically approved cleaning, toiletry and beauty products. In addition has “deli” section offering organic vegetarian take-out options. Temperature outside: 5 degrees F.]
She (crowding many items from her cart onto conveyer belt and addressing next person in line without seeing who it is): I‘m not a good person to get behind. (She is bundled up in heavy scarf, black down coat, lined gloves and boots, and therefore only visible from the chin up. However, she did have her uncovered hair cut and colored three days previously.)
He (for it is indeed a he): I see you’re eating healthy.
She (turning to look): Not so healthy. My husband goes kerflooey now and then. (She is referring to two tubs of Bent Spoon ice cream and several packages of crystallized ginger on conveyer. Also two 70% chocolate bars near box of Zen greens, organic grape tomatoes, lemons and Braeburn apples. Man behind her is person with completely shaved bald head and wearing only white tee shirt. No jacket, gloves or hat in sight. Slight belly. Wide-open baby blue eyes. White skin so smooth and unlined it might have been entirely Botoxed.)
He: We all have to do that now and then.
She (pushing empty cart forward): I guess.
He: Eating that way you’re going to live a long time.
She: (Why is boy at register so slow at ringing things up?) I’ve already lived a long time.
She (unwisely): I’m old enough to be your mother. I’m probably twice your age.
He (incredulous): You’re a hundred and two?
She (really looking at him now): Well, no. Not quite.
He (proudly): I’m fifty-one.
She: I’m closer to a hundred and two than to your age. (She pauses.) I’m eighty-three.
He (also pausing): I thought you were sixty. Or sixty-one.
(He must be pulling her leg. Well, maybe he isn’t. She is all bundled up. He can’t see what’s really what. She hopes she didn’t smile.)
He (continuing): How old did you think I was?
She (now fishing in wallet for credit card): Oh, somewhere in your late forties.
He (disappointed): Most people guess thirties.
She: I have sons in their mid-forties. Sorry, you don’t look younger than they do.
He (desperate?): I have thirty to thirty-five years of experience. How’s that?
She (signing machine and preparing to exit): Don’t brag.
He: But it’s true. [He pushes his seven cans of overpriced Wolfgang Puck vegetarian soup forward on conveyer.]
She: Doesn’t matter. Say nothing. (Good advice to self, she thinks.) Always keep ’em guessing.
[She exits. However, in the car she thinks it over. Just a weird crazy guy making small talk. But sixty? Sixty-one? She feels good all the way home.]