The receipt said “Your cashier was Laura.” The man stops in the act of unpacking the bag of groceries, arrested by the anomaly of the past tense. He shifts the carton of eggs to his other hand, reaches absentmindedly for the bag of tomatoes. “Was Laura.” Is she still Laura now that he’s home, the paper bag torn at the top, the condensation from the bottle of milk starting to soften one corner?
He’s arrested by a sudden vision of her identity existing only in transaction. His cashier was Laura. Maybe by now she’s Tiffany, who is only in evidence for the four minutes it takes to ring up and package a roasted chicken, a box of bandaids, two bottles of wine, a cantaloupe, and a package of ballpoint pens. Before that, someone else’s Marigold handled four pounds of roasting potatoes, a bar of baking chocolate, a jar of peanut butter, a package of sponges, a bottle of kitchen cleaner, and a box of tampons.
He thinks about Louisa, logging out of the register and eating her lunch in the breakroom: a Tupperware container of cold leftover spaghetti, carrot sticks and a Diet Coke. He thinks Louisa reads half a comic book, puts it back in her backpack, washes her hands.
Stephanie signs back into the register and sells a bag of balloons, paper streamers in pink, green and yellow, a birthday card, a box of cake mix, a tin of sprinkles and a pound of butter. The carton of eggs grows heavy on his arm, and he notices that one of the tomatoes is about to roll out of the bag. He opens the refrigerator and finishes putting his Laura groceries away.