There are four foodstuffs I keep in my apartment: milk, McCann’s Irish Oatmeal, craisins and coffee. In my defense, breakfast is the most important meal of the day.
As a result, I’m a regular at Washington Food Center, a large bodega cattycorner to my apartment. A deep ingrained fear of social awkwardness usually keeps me from becoming friendly with cashiers, but since I go to WFC so often, I have developed a relationship with one of the guys behind the counter there.
He’s a Syrian immigrant; he works at the bodega from noon to midnight seven days a week. He wears a Boar’s Head sweatshirt sometimes, and in the winter, a navy knit cap that hides the fact that he is nearly entirely bald.
This might seem New-York-Times-bleeding-heart-liberal, but I’m always impressed with immigrants. These people give up their entire lives in hopes of making a better one here. And these days, the American dream involves working 12-hour days at a bodega in a changing neighborhood of Brooklyn. Their dream is pretty courageous, or at least a lot more courageous than my dream of being a writer with her own Wikipedia page.
Over the past 18 months I’ve been patronizing WFC, the Syrian immigrant and I have become friends, such good friends that he gives me bananas at a discounted rate, but holds my hand for too long when he gives me my change. One Friday, I went in there to buy a Blow Pop , and he asked how I was doing. I said I was happy it was almost the weekend. He replied, “Every day is Monday to me.” Sometimes when I go in there and ask how his day is going, he says, “You made my day, sweatheart.”
I don’t think that the salad guy who gives me extra toppings particularly likes me. Nor do I believe that construction workers who shout inappropriate comments at me are genuinely interested in becoming intimate. I’m not saying that this guy is in love with me. But for a guy who spends most of his waking hours working at bodega far from home, seeing me could very well make his day. And that is a very depressing thought.