“If you were married to your grocery list, you just got separated … and I don’t want you to get a divorce,” says Pope Mohammed to a woman you’ve never met.
Pope Mohammed’s hand is outstretched. There is a piece of white crumpled paper between his thumb and forefinger. The paper has hand-written scrawl on it. A stranger stands in front of Pope Mohammed. She appears 23 or 24. She has a toddler stuffed in a baby seat of a shopping cart.
You follow behind Pope Mohammed after pulling a nested shopping cart from a long line of carts snaked in a holding area. The sounds of scraping and slamming metal is echoing around you. You are in a Piggly Wiggly grocery store. You rip an anti-bacterial wipe from a dispenser and smooth it over the handle. The door that you entered through is moved with an electric eye.
The woman takes the paper. She says, “Thanks,” and pushes her cart forward.
Before she is too far away, Pope Mohammed pats the woman’s toddler on the head. You stand next to Pope Mohammed for a moment before he looks at you and says, “Have you ever heard of Frotteurism?”
You say, “No.”
Pope Mohammed moves toward produce. You follow. He picks the anti-bacterial wipe from your hand, he wipes the cloth over his hands and says, “Frotteurism is rubbing against a ‘non-consenting person’ in a public space while fantasizing an exclusive, caring relationship with the other person.”
There’s a pause. Over the intercom, you hear a voice saying, “21 on 4.”
Pope Mohammed is fondling a cantaloupe. He says, “Most acts of frottage occur when the person is aged 12-15 after which there is a gradual decline in frequency.”
You nod your head, and follow Pope Mohammed heads toward the bananas. You are holding a shopping list that reads, “Beef Kabobs”.
Pope Mohammed asks, “Ever hear of prosopagnosia?”
“No,” you say.
Pope Mohammed picks up a head of lettuce and says, “Prosopagnosia is face blindness.”
“Hmm,” you utter.
“Friends of people with Prosopagnosia complain that the victim never recognizes them,” explains Pope Mohammed. “Prosopanosiacs don’t remember the faces of those whom they have hurt.”
You glance at your list. You pick up an onion.
You push the cart a little further. You pick up a green pepper and then a red one.
Pope Mohammed reaches for the red pepper you put in the cart, lifts it to his face. He examines it by lowering his glasses to the tip of his nose and looking over the rims. He puts the pepper back and picks up another. He examines it. Smells it. He places it in your cart. “Did you know that Piggly Wiggly is the oldest American grocery store chain?”
You say, “No … I didn’t.”
Pope Mohammed says, “Shopping is like choosing one of my teenage wives.” Your brow furrows. You look at Pope Mohammed’s lips moving. “Choosing a wife is like picking vegetables from a grocery stand,” he says.
Your eyes avert from discomfort. You’re hoping to conceal your confusion.
“One day you pick a beautiful fruit,” says Pope Mohammed in a sing song voice. “The next day, the fruit is blackened with age. It is withered with time. It is molded and rotted.”
You feel the embarrassment of a red face. You feel the heat emitting from it.
“You … you throw that fruit away?” You ask.
Pope Mohammed looks at you and shakes his head. He walks away from you. He talks with his back to you. “No,” he says. “You compost the old. You replant and wait for a more lovely yield to come from the next harvest.”