July 19, 2021

Early Evening at the Circle K. {Poem}


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Her eyes dart fast
over her mask
2 packs of Winstons please
deep blue bags under her eyes
three kids jumping around her

4 lottery tickets please
tank top and tattoos
energy drink and snickers
back to his pickup

Tesla energy van with a ladder on the top
at the gas pump

Sunglasses and Lexus
tosses his sparkling water can into the trash
heads in for a tube of Pringles

Mom and her grown son
older BMW
she stays in the car, hands him cash
he heads inside

Man with a white minivan
washes his windows
swiping and wiping
fluid and practiced
this small pleasure of precision

White sparkling Cadillac SUV
tries to catch the eye of Sunglasses Lexus who doesn’t notice
Cadillac SUV fills tank and backs slowly away from white minivan

Adult son returns to car carrying a bag of chips and a pink blended drink
he seems to be frantically trying to communicate with his mom, as soon as he leaves the store, through his mask and her rolled-up windows.
she waits in the driver’s seat
he gets into the car

Two stacks of firewood lean against the outside windows of the Circle K on this Texas summer evening

The son gets back out of the car
heads back into the Circle K

A short man in an oversized blue flowered shirt and baggy jeans gets out of his huge Titan pickup
goes inside to pay for gas on 3

Son returns with another pink blended drink
bigger than the first
takes off his mask as he gets into the car
door still open
He smiles at his mom
she smiles back
he puts the change into her purse
closes door
they drive away

On the front of the Amazon Locker is written, “hello, my name is stepdaughter”


Author’s note:

Thank you for reading. I wrote this in the notes app on my phone while sitting in my car at the gas station on the evening of July 14, 2021. I’ve been reflecting recently on human interactions as we all begin to move about in the world again.

I expected a cerebral exercise, and did experience some of that with the dissonance of the Tesla van getting gas, and the firewood stacked up in summer. What was unexpected was the warmth and tenderness that watching these people engendered within me, especially the man who washed his windows with such care, and the mom and her son—their first interactions seeming discordant, and then the flash of affection in their shared smiles before they drove away.

Then, I noticed the name of the Amazon Locker in front of my car. A quick google search showed me that each locker has a different name. Some are human names, others are food, astrological symbols, etc. And this was named stepdaughter. Stepdaughter, to me, has its own dissonance. There is the word daughter, but with the added “step” just to make sure nobody makes the mistake of considering the relationship close enough to be a true daughter. It is both a distance maker, but also a respectful placeholder for the parent who can claim the right to use the fuller yet shorter word.

So many of our relationships and interactions hold that “step.” We keep ourselves stepped away, stepped apart. In this exercise, I took a few minutes to see the humanity in people I’d just been stepping around, and in those moments, I inevitably saw love.

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