151 - ghost
essica pushed her shopping basket down the produce aisle. Fruit had never really been her thing, but her husband demanded a fresh orange with his breakfast each morning. So, here she found herself every week on her grocery run, to stock up on a fresh supply.
She began to grab at the pile of oranges, trying to pick out the good ones. Somewhere, at some time, she had been told that a good woman, a good wife, knew how to choose out the best fruits and vegetables. Jessica couldn't recall the specifics of the conversation, but she assumed that her mother was the one who had instilled in her those words of old-fashioned wisdom.
Her mother was a safe assumption to make when the question came to who was holding fast to traditional values. Jessica missed her mother dearly, just as she missed almost everyone else she left behind. But she left for a reason, and part of that reason was beliefs like those.
Okay, she admitted she had no idea what she was doing as she poked and groped the oranges. Mostly, she was checking to make sure that she didn't grab one that was obviously rotten or otherwise inedible. Occasionally, she failed even at that. She couldn't believe that it had any bearing on her status as a wife, a woman, or a goddamn human being on the planet Earth, though.
Jessica had picked out five of the seven oranges she needed to purchase this week. When she went to grab a hopeful candidate for orange number six, her hand made contact with the hand of another shopper, also selecting an orange in the vicinity of the one she was grabbing. She was slightly delayed in her reaction to the accidental encounter, because her mind was still ruminating over thoughts of her mother and the old country.
"Sorry," said the man whose hand she had hit.
"It's quite alright, my mistake," Jessica quickly responded.
There was something different about the man's voice that Jessica only realized a few moments after the brief exchange. His accent was different. Or rather, it was the same, as hers. In just one simple word, Jessica heard herself and her own way of speaking this foreign language. Beyond that, the cadence was somehow familiar. She looked up.
She found herself locking eyes with a man who was already staring intently at her, as if he had the same thoughts when she spoke. Through the wrinkles and the beard, she knew this face. She knew those eyes.
"David?" she cautiously asked the man, letting the orange in her hand fall back into the pile.
The man nodded in affirmation. "Jessica?" he asked, and when his mouth formed the word, she had absolutely no doubt.
But there was no way any of this could be real. She had known that she would never talk to him again, much less see him. And of all the places, here.
"I remember a time when you completely refused to eat these things, and look at you now," David said, with an orange in his hand.
"It must be, what, at least ten years?" Jessica asked, her thoughts still trailing a few moments behind the present. In a moment, she finally caught up, and responded: "They're not for me."
David's expression changed slightly at that. He could read between every word she had ever spoken, and he knew exactly who these oranges must be for. Understandably, the thought of her having a husband brought him no small amount of discomfort.
But he swallowed those thoughts. He tried to let those ideas be. He had always known he was just somebody left behind. So had she.