I cling to my purse, hesitating at the checkout. These are not luxuries that I am purchasing, but necessities for my family.
The woman in queue behind me huffs with impatience. I turn slightly, give a wan smile. ‘Sorry,’ I say.
‘Can you just pay? I’m kinda in a hurry.’
I’m trying to remember the balance of my account. $250. Or maybe $150. Either way, once I pay for these groceries, I’m left with an amount that won’t sustain us till next payday.
‘Come on!’ the woman says.
I offer my card to the checkout operator. Sweating. Heart racing.
Seconds pass like minutes.
My face flushes red. I can feel the woman’s frustration pulse off her body.
I start to hand items back for the checkout chick to delete from the list.
‘Just a minute,’ the woman behind me says. ‘Let me buy this for you.’
I shake my head.
‘I insist.’ A beat. Her eyes turn from flashing anger to kind. ‘Please. We’ve all been in this position where the necessities are not affordable.’
And before I can answer, she nods to the operator to scan the deleted items again, hands her card over and pays for my groceries.