Once the storm cleared, they left for their evening walk. The tree, whose branches scratched and pawed at their front windows only minutes ago, was back in repose. The gutters, overflowing and summoning the smells of garbage and sewage that ran just beneath them, had largely subsided, too. Only a few puddles remained – but not for long, not once an overzealous child or dog leapt into them.
The couple reached their grocery store and, without a word, entered. The doors parted and invited them in without touching them, and they heard the AC before they could hear the music. A song that sounded like Phil Collins, but was definitely not Phil Collins, played on low from somewhere.
Their favorite tea was on sale. For her, its smell brought back the green-blue sea of the Mediterranean, the warmth of the sun right after a couple’s massage on their honeymoon. For him, it brought back this same memory and others: friends gathered at a table, the warmth of being pulled in for a picture, faces livelier in memory than on their dormant social media accounts.
“Are we out of milk?”
“Get it,” looking at the expiration date, “It won’t go to waste.”
Nearby, two middle-aged men in matching chambray shorts talked about the storm. One was in a Martha’s Vineyard t-shirt, the other’s had the name of a university in blue, block lettering across the chest. The couple couldn’t tell if the men were close friends or strangers. If you know someone long enough, don’t they become a little bit of both?
Towards the front, the cashiers were all smiles. Fast hands, faster pleasantries. A customer or two mistook this friendliness for something more, engaging the cashiers in conversation beyond the trendy topic of the moment: the storm that had just aggressively pushed through their neighborhood and left.
“Crazy how fast it moved.”
“When something picks up that quick, it never lasts long.”
The couple’s own cashier was quiet, perhaps too focused on the actions of her hands to make eye contact. Afterwards, each of them wondered if it had been them – especially because the cashier brightened with the next customer.
“Could it have been -?”
“Had to have been.”
Outside, they stared in awe at the neighborhood they had made their own. The neighborhood, especially their moving-in almost a decade ago, had been such an event. Friends visiting, sharing well-wishes and bottles of wine, making soft plans for “next time” and “later” and “soon.” Recently, the neighborhood had become familiar without being cozy, like the Target that had replaced the bookstore or the bank that had replaced a bank.
“Should we keep going? Or head back?” he asked.
“Where to?” she replied.
Francisco Delgado is a proud Chamorro and, through his maternal grandmother, a member of the Tonawanda Band of Seneca (Wolf clan). He works as an Assistant Professor of English at Borough of Manhattan Community College (CUNY) and lives in Queens with his wife and their son. His creative work has appeared in Glimmer Train, Pithead Chapel, Lammergeier, and Wigleaf, and he is the author of the chapbook Adolescence, Secondhand (Honeysuckle Press, 2018).