“Are You Together?”

The thing about Trader Joe’s is that it is not a quick shop kind of place.  Experiencing the “thrill of discovery” requires some extra browsing time.   Which is why, it is not unusual that on a recent Sunday afternoon I stood mesmerized by a wall of crackers and other carbs at a local Trader Joe’s.  Venom Pen was wandering the aisles is search of his own cheap thrills as I stared with growing interest at gorgonzola bites only vaguely aware of the person standing to my left.

All of a sudden I felt a hand grip my upper right arm. I swiveled my head and found myself nearly chin to forehead with a short, sturdy, older, but not quite elderly, woman with cropped hair and garish lipstick.  As my mind searched for some familiar spark I realized that her other hand was holding another woman’s upper left arm with equal urgency.

“Are you together?” she asked.  Our captor took nary a breath as she continued, “Are you together? Because, I have a gift for you, it’s a song.  A song from Jesus.”

I glanced at my fellow hostage and wondered exactly what she meant by “together.”  Together as in close proximity?  Well yes, obviously.  Together as in married, life partners, or new lovers caught in the fresh bloom of romance? No.  Not that there’s anything wrong with that.  In fact, my fellow hostage was lovely.  Together as in the only black(ish) people in Trader Joe’s at the time? Yes, but why would she care?

These thoughts played through my head as an unknown melody from an unknown woman danced on my last nerve.  I briefly wondered who had the “crazy” edge.  The woman who was physically accosting strangers with song? Or the TWO women, who stood in docile shock, accepting a non-returnable gift?  My mood quickly shifted from that of a patient stranger accustomed to occasional awkward moments, to a less charitable, more irritable, mommy-wants-crackers mode. 

The very moment I saw Venom Pen round the corner and stumble in shock upon seeing his mother being serenaded by a stranger, I sensed that my personal minstrel was about to take a long breath in preparation for  another chorus.

She inhaled, and as if we had been together our entire lives, my fellow captive and I shouted, “Thank you very much, as we turned on our heels and walked briskly in opposite directions.  We reunited a few aisles later to briefly high five each other for our great escape while an outraged Venom Pen shadowed Jesus’ singing-est elf through the rest of the store…just for the thrill of it. 

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