3.22.2009

In the frozen foods aisle

As I walked down the frozen foods on Friday to pick up a mini-cup of Ben and Jerry's for Amanda, I saw him, a little boy, maybe six, sitting in the basket part of a grocery cart. His mother tugged at a studded leather collar around her child-like neck, and peered gravely into a row of Kid's Cuisine frozen dinner, and he slumped away from her, the skin of his temples, pressed uncomfortably against the jagged weld-marks of the cart bars. He half rested on some breakfast cereal, a 3 lb bag of Cool Ranch Doritos at his back, and a frozen chicken rested dully against his bare calf. It was the chicken that got me. I remember the feel of the steel mesh through weather-beaten shorts, and I remember the feeling of something frozen against the frustrated warmth of child-skin, I remember glazing out eyes toward gallon buckets of Neapolitan, and considering things so important I couldn't remember them by the time I left the store, and I remember the hollow fear of being a child, of not knowing if I was going to be a good person when I grew up, not knowing why there was always dirt spots in the linoleum floors, not knowing if a chicken could freeze onto your skin hard enough to do damage, not knowing who I was, or who my parents were, or even what the words were for the questions I was asking myself. And I looked at that little boy there, his mother now putting in two platters of kid's macaroni and cheese meals, her own hollow fear held up into quiet lonely terrors, and into instantly regretted impatiences with her child, and I looked, and I knew he was going to be alright, and it felt wonderful. Maybe I'll be alright, too, who knows.