It’s been a fortnight now since my local bodega shut its doors. O! When those lights went out, so extinguished was the light in my heart. I sit before you a shadow of the man I once was. I am untethered. I have come undone. I am without my corner store.
Trusty friend, I feel as if I am sailing the open seas again, nary a lighthouse in sight. I long to come ashore but, alas, there is no shore to greet me. And, of course, by “come ashore” I mean purchase an egg and cheese sandwich, extra cheese.
Cherished companion, my hands have forgotten the feeling of a dusty Kit Kat bar. My eyes strain to read the expiration date on a box of Animal Crackers, because God knows how long those have been there. How my ears long for the sound of the cashier shouting back to the short order cook, “How much for the sandwich” and then hearing the short order cook reply “50 cents extra for extra cheese!” O! Would that I were deaf and blind, these phantom visions wouldn’t taunt me so!
I know what you’re thinking, truest companion. You’re thinking, “Go to a proper grocery store. This is a good excuse to start to do that.” But lo! Tis not who I am! Tis not the fabric from which I was made! My foodstuff purchases are not planned outings, but rather happy accidents. I shop not out of foresight but out of reaction. “Crap! I don’t have ketchup and I just ordered a grilled cheese sandwich for delivery!” I’ll say to myself. And then I’ll scurry down to the bodega and purchase some ketchup. That is the story of how my ketchup came to be, dear listener! That is how my ketchup and I first made each other’s acquaintance!
Beloved confidant, I found some old plastic bodega bags two eves past. They were shoved under my sink where I would keep them until they became too numerous, at which point I would throw a whole knot of them away. O Foolish child am I! Could I not see? Could I not comprehend that there might come a time when those unmarked black plastic bags with five to six paper napkins in the bottom would become extinct? I would turn my back on Helen of Troy to have too many plastic bags under mine own sink!
Treasured mate, take solace that I still go out in public, hoping that perchance they don’t smell it on me. That they don’t smell the absence of stale coffee and fry. That they don’t see me for who I truly am: a New Yorker without a corner store. I’m no better than a pirate without a parrot. No more respectable than a child in speech therapy without a stutter.
But it gets worse, Mr. Diary. I am not as strong as I thought I was. I cannot lie any longer. I’ve found a 7-Eleven on the other side of town and I’ve been frequenting it for the basics. Smart Water, gum, cash back. It’s the cash back that hurts the most because of course my bodega only took cash. O! How I throw this betrayal in the face of her memory! Not only do I use a credit card to pay, but I take cash back.
But believe me, it’s not without pain that I commit such treason. The employees there know not of me. They cannot ask the questions that the sweet man at my bodega could ask: “How’s your sister?” or “How are you, baby?” or “Extra cheese? Really?” I am but another faceless consumer in their eyes.
Cherished BFF, I fear for myself. Please pray for me. Pray for the safe return of a bodega to my corner at Godspeed. I know not who I am without it.