I was waiting in line with a bag full of beer. It's the day before the day before Halloween and the place is decorated with delightfully scary ghosts and goblins. Several of the staff have on costumes. I noticed a fellow walking purposefully and quickly by, almost as if he was trying to avoid the eye of someone in the store. I notice these kinds of things! Turns out I was right. The clerk serving in the other aisle noticed the rushing figure and called out. The man was brought up short, hearing his name, and turned to come into the store. I could see he had rearranged his face from an 'oh, shit, caught' look to a 'delighted to see you' look.
The clerk made a joke that she hadn't seen him for awhile. He made some noises about being busy. She seemed completely oblivious to his discomfort and made another joke, 'the liquor industry called and they were worried about you'. He laughed. Another clerk called over, 'yeah and we were too, keeping well?' He said he was well. To distract the conversation he made a joke about their costumes. They both said that they liked dressing up for the holiday.
He made to leave and the clerk said, 'What no beer?'
He said, simply, 'No.'
Finally she noticed that he clearly wasn't being the 'him' she knew him to be and asked, 'You OK? Everything all right with the family, the kids?'
He said, 'You know what I'm going to be for Halloween this year?'
She was startled by this turn of conversation, thought he was avoiding the question but let it go. 'What's that?'
He lowered his voice but by now I was right at the next till. My cashier was being very quiet, we were all listening. 'My little girl, Anna, said, 'Daddy, you know what I think you should be for Halloween this year.' I said, 'What, honey.' She ran into her mom's and my room and came out with a big picture. It was the one we had from her 4th birthday. She pointed to me and said, 'Do you think you could be him again?' she was pointing to a picture of me holding her in my arms and laughing.' He stopped and looked away, embarrassed, I think by moist eyes. 'It's been a long time since I was that man. I think the journey back to him might be a long one. But I'm seven days in.'
He rushed out of the store wiping his eyes.
I was sniffing loudly as I carried the beer out of the store. I've decided that I want to be 'me' for Halloween this year too. I want to take off the costume self I wear all year round and put on my real self. I haven't started yet. But I promise to let you know when I'm seven days in.