At the Corner Store

There was an old man behind the counter – skinny, brown and eager. He greeted me like a long lost daughter, as if we both came from the same world, someplace warmer and more gracious than this cold city. I was thirsty, and alone, sick-at-heart, grief-soiled. And his face lit up as if I were his prodigal daughter returning.

Coming back to the freezer bins in front of the register, which were still and always filled with the same old Cable Car ice cream sandwiches and cheap frozen greens, back to the knobs of beef and packages of hot dogs, these familiar shelves full of potato chips and corn chips, stacked up beer boxes and an immortal Jim Beam.

I lumbered to the case and bought my precious bottled water, and he returned my change beaming, as if I were the bright new buds on the just-bursting-open cherry trees, as if I were everything beautiful struggling to grow. And he was blessing me as he handed me my dime. Over the dirty counter and the plastic tub of red licorice whips, this old man who didn’t speak English beamed out love to me in the iron week after my mother’s death. So when I emerged from his store, my whole cockeyed life – what a beautiful failure – glowed gold like a sunset after rain.

Frustrated city dogs were yelping in their yards, mad with passion behind chain link fences, and in the driveway of a peeling townhouse, a woman and a girl danced to contagious reggae. Praise Allah, the Buddha, Kwan Yin, Jesus, Mary and even jealous old Jehovah. For the eyes and hands of the Divine are everywhere.

Alison Luterman

We do come from the same world
May our faces light up in each other’s presence
May we be seen as everything beautiful
May we be blessed
The eyes and hands are here

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