Thursday, May 26, 2005

It’s going to be a Long Summer

Yesterday I saw Jimmy for the first time in several months. Since his sister’s wedding and the family began managing other stores, I’d not encountered Jimmy. The funny thing is, as I was driving to the store yesterday afternoon, I thought about how long it had been since I’d seen him; I had even considered asking whatever family member was behind the counter what store Jimmy was managing. But when I came through the door, there was Jimmy, beside the cash register, waving and smiling, and saying, “Hi, Nick.”

Let me go back a bit: I met the East Indian family who own and operate this closest convenience store to my house shortly after I moved into the neighborhood. It was the father whom I first met: back then it was he who most often worked in the store. It wasn’t long after I began frequenting the store before the father knew my name, welcomed me like a family member, and always inquired about my well-being and family. We talked a lot, he and I. And we developed a sense of friendship and mutual respect.

The second family member I met was the daughter, Cimron. I can say without exaggerating that she is one of the most beautiful young women I have ever met. I remember one of our first conversations was about her classes at the University of Louisville. At that time she was attending classes during the day and working in the store and studying in the evening. One class was becoming more and more stressful for her, especially since she had no interest in it and studying for it seemed to her to take more time and effort than all of her other classes put together. I shared with her my own experiences with such classes—especially geology—and we would laugh about how we humans let the inconsequential pressure us. Last year, when she and her family went to India for her marriage—they were there when the December tsunami hit…but that’s another story.

Jimmy is Cimron’s older brother. One evening I went by the store relatively late, when Jimmy was the only one there. He was working on a history paper about the Second World War. Somehow we began talking about the war and history and the conversation continued each time I went by. Of course, I began to look forward to those conversations and would often arrange to shop late in the evening so that Jimmy and I could talk. Our conversations quickly went beyond history to the joys and pains of our lives. I found this young man to be insightful and even helpful to an old dude like me. After Cimron’s marriage, when the family opened up other convenience stores, I saw less and less of Jimmy. Until yesterday afternoon, I’d not seen him for several months.

Which brings me to yesterday afternoon. When Jimmy saw me enter the store, his welcome was more than gracious, it was affable, as if it hadn’t been four months or so since we’d last talked. There were quite a few people in the store at that moment; still I wanted to talk with him. So, I sat down at the table Jimmy had put in front of the deli section when he introduced serving lunch at the store. I sat and watched the customers and waited for moments to talk to Jimmy.

Now, as a preacher I know says when he has wandered away from his sermon topic onto a tangent from which he has no transition back, “I told you that so I can tell you this.”

One of the customers who walked in about the same time as I was a young girl. I had been sitting at the table about ten minutes and all of the other customers had made their purchases and departed before she approached the counter. She placed a 12-pack of beer—Bud Ice—on the counter and handed Jimmy an ID card. I didn’t hear what Jimmy said, but I did hear the young woman say “But I’ll be thirty on June 12.” Jimmy shook his head, pulled the case of beer off the counter, and placed it on the floor behind the counter. The girl stomped out of the store. I cast a questioning look at Jimmy. He shrugged, and said, “I know her father. She’s seventeen and I don’t know where she got the ID that said she was born in 1975.”

A few minutes later a young man entered the store, went back to the cooler, and approached the counter carrying a 12-pack of, you guessed it: Bud Ice. Jimmy didn’t even look at his ID card. He lifted the case of beer off the counter, and placed it on the floor behind the counter. The young man stomped out of the store. And Jimmy said, “They keep trying and I don’t know why. They know I know them. It’s going to be like this all summer.”

And then I remembered: school was out yesterday and the kids are into a summer of partying. It is going to be a long summer.

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