There is a small grocery shop not far from the S-bahn stop I usually take for university. So naturally, because of its convenience, I sometimes stop by. It’s one of those slightly shabby places selling fruit, veggies, and some mediterranean products.
The first time I stopped there, enticed by the fruit boxes outside, I was taken aback by how quickly the young shop assistant popped out and started ogling my every move. I was so nervous I even dropped a tangerine – which he hurried to rescue and assure me it was ok. He then proceeded to explain that the oranges are good and sweet – and only 2 euros for four – would I like some? No, I would not. I felt a bit awkward though – as you feel sometimes when someone is trying to be nice and you give them the cold shoulder. So when I went inside to pay, as he placed my fruit on the scales, I noticed the peculiar photo of him, posing in front of the rows of veggie boxes outside the store.
“Oh” I utter before managing to bite my tongue. “Why do you have a photo of yourself with your shop there?”
He looks at me, perfectly puzzled. And then opens his mouth: “Oh… well… that’s because… errrrrr” I wait, patiently.
“It’s … well … you see….” He breaks off, considers, stares into the distance. He could be a character in a Beckett play. For that matter, so could I. I keep quiet, inwardly cursing my stupid urge to make small talk. I thought it would cheer him up. But it’s really more like the Chinese drop torture. For both of us.
“You see.. there was this photographer…” he resumes. I nod, encouragingly. “and he… hmm.. he…he took the picture” Well duh, I kind of guessed that, retorts the evil Baddie part of me. “Why do you have it up though?” is what I say instead.
“It’s to show…. to show…” he stammers and flushes. “To show…” Oh spit it out, man! “To show that you work here?” I try to help. “YES!” he booms. “But also to show… to show…” Oh boy, here we go again…. “To show that I am always here for my customers!” he finishes, and I swear I can see a sheen of sweat on his forehead, but he grins and is happy and so am I.
I thought I’d never go back to that store. But Baddie never learns her lesson. Next time I did, I bought some artichokes.”Are you cooking them yourself?” I stare at him, in a state of incomprehension. Why else would I buy them? Do I look like I can afford a cook? or is it the type of thing you casually bring to friends when you visit, in lieu of flowers? “Err, yeah” I look at him, insecurely. “The heart is the best part” comes the sage advice. Ahhh… now I’ve had it. I will definitely definitely not take the chance of having any more strage conversations with this guy.
Until today, that is. That little store must have an aura that draws me in – or maybe I’m a glutton for punishment. In any case, I went in, and bought: half a melon, some cherry tomatoes, 2 pieces of baklava and a small jar of home-made strawberry jam. I did not ask if it was his granny or himself who made it. But I really wanted to.
And as I was leaving, he smiled, reached into a veggie box and said: “I’ll throw this in for free, ok?”
I was not looking at carrots. I was not in need of carrots. And it’s not like it matched the rest of my shopping. But it was sweet, if a little too Freudian for my taste. Now I am DEFINITELY not going there anymore.