Seniors | Bagsby barbara rose brooker
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It’s one of those days when everything seems to go wrong. I lost my keys, glasses, television remote — again, and the writing isn’t coming easily. Anyway, one of my New Year’s goals is to be healthier — eat organic, walk more — so I go to the organic market, buying fruits and vegetables. The checker is adding up my groceries. “Do you need a bag?”
“Of course I need a bag. I’m walking 10 blocks,” I reply briskly. “ I can’t carry the groceries in my arms like a baby.’’
“Lady, it’s 10 cents for a bag.’’
“Next time bring your own bag like everyone else.’’
I notice that many people in line are carrying different size bags — some paper, some nice cloth bags, net bags, and sacks of all kinds. The checker proceeds reluctantly to shake out a paper bag as if it’s a Persian carpet, loads the bag with my groceries, and finally I leave.
Outside, it’s raining. The air is cold and people wear woolen scarves to their chins and carry umbrellas. I decide to stop first at Starbucks for my daily decaf latte.
It’s crowded inside but I find an empty place at a table by the window. A man about my age sits across from me reading a book on President Obama. He has salt-and-pepper curly hair and a narrow face. He wears tinted glasses and a dark blue quilted parka.
“Incredible inaugural speech, wasn’t it? President Obama is my hero …”
He looks up over his book and blinks, as if deciding to talk or not. “He has a lot of work to do.”
“So do we as citizens.”
He extends a hand. “Jeremy Frankel.”
So we start yakking it up about books, films, politics. Turns out he’s a retired economics professor — divorced, lives on the hill. He speaks in a low careful voice. He tells me what a fabulous view his co-op has.
I tell him about the bags. “Ten cents a bag now. No more freebies. Even our senior discounts are marked up.’’
“Do you like movies?”
“Love Woody Allen.”
“The last woman I dated only wanted to watch foreign films. Who can see? Those white subtitles …“
I stand. “Well, I have to go. It’s getting dark and it’s stopped raining.”
“Do you have a card?”
I go through my huge tote bag and find a coffee-stained card.
He looks at the card and then at me, frowning, as if trying to figure out something. “I thought you looked familiar. I read your column — have read your books. I loved God Doesn’t Make Trash.”
We shake hands. I leave.
Outside, it’s raining again and the sky has turned dark. I walk faster, balancing my bag of groceries and the big purse. Just as I cross the horrible intersection at Broadway and Van Ness, my bag breaks and my groceries roll into the puddles. Here I am on my knees, trying to stuff the lettuce, oranges, what isn’t soaked, into my tote bag.
At home, I turn on the lights and the space heater. After I eat pasta, I cover the bowl of leftover sauce with Saran Wrap. Only just as I pull the Saran, it breaks and crinkles and sticks to my hand and when I try to release it, it wraps around my finger like a slug. Can’t someone find a way, a little metal strip perhaps, to hold the edge of Saran Wrap so it doesn’t break? I’ve always wanted to invent something like the Sticky Note or the Pet Rock.
What a day. It’s late. The rain is heavier. I read “The Diaries of Richard Burton,” gasping at the love between him and Elizabeth Taylor, wondering if anything like that will happen to me?
The phone rings.
“It’s Jerry Frankel — the man you met in Starbucks. We talked about bags?”
“Bags, yes. I remember.’’
He pauses. “I thought maybe you could have lunch with me on Friday. You seem interesting. If you don’t like me, it’s only lunch.
After we make plans and I hang up, later, in bed, I think about the day. You never know how what seems a bad day is merely a transition to something new. The present is always the future.
And what’s wrong with bags?
Barbara Rose Brooker is a native S.F. author. A new edition of her novel “The Viagra Diaries” will be published by Simon & Schuster on April 30, and HBO is in the process of casting a TV series based on her book. http://www.barbararosebrooker.com
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