Two bags of egg noodles, frozen shrimp, and a head of garlic.
At the local Asian market, my feet tapped impatiently. It was getting late, and I still needed to cook.
While the cashier rang up my items, I noticed some fliers by the register. One flier, printed in black and white, caught my eye.
I squinted to focus on a woman’s photo, printed at the top.
Those sad eyes…
where had I seen her before?
~ ~ ~
A few months ago.
She sat in a chair in the exam room with her hands on her lap, like she didn’t know what to do with them.
“Pain,” she whispered. Her hair looked like a black bird’s nest.
“Where?” I asked, then listened. But as I gathered more history, it was more complicated than I thought.
“Did anyone accompany you? Who do you live with? Where is your family?” I inquired.
Her gaze avoided mine. She stared at my feet.
“They… don’t care about me,” she replied, a stoic look on her face. She was numb. Dry, with no emotion.
The room reeked of alcohol.
She had drunk her family away.
~ ~ ~
One day, I drove by an older woman on the sidewalk.
Clutching a large plastic bag in one hand, she reached down and sifted through a trash bin with her other bare hand. She recovered the aluminum cans and tossed them into her bag.
That bird nest hair.
Those sad eyes.
So this is where she goes, when she walks out our clinic doors…
~ ~ ~
“Your total is $22.50,” the cashier interrupted.
Oh! Startled, I handed my credit card to the cashier.
My eyes skimmed the rest of the flier, reading the Khmer text. A memorial service would be held in her honor, at the local Buddhist temple.
I signed the receipt, then folded the flier into my bag. I got way more than what I paid for…
“Thank you, have a good night.”
Another patient has passed away.
Another funeral announcement…to add to my growing stack at home.
Another life lost to alcohol.
I carried the bag full of groceries and grief into my trunk, then started the engine.
Suddenly, cooking dinner didn’t seem as urgent anymore.