The grocery whisperer
The new cashier at the discount grocery store knows he stands out from the rest. Dressed entirely in black, he's literally a stark contrast from the bubble-gum-outfitted cashiers, with logos spanning their asses, making saucy declarations like PINK and JUICY, that I try not to think too much about.
This market is the sort of work environment that thrives on chaos, where I suspect applicants are subject to a minimum decibel requirement, and it fazes no one to get knocked by a skinless lamb riding the butcher's shoulder on its way to the meat counter. Stock-boys clog the aisles, recounting tales of their weekends and things they did to piss off their girlfriends, not always waiting until you're out of earshot to say something that would further piss off said girlfriends. But this market, it's got its charm, and great sales.
I'm not sure how this new cashier got his foot in the door, though. He never wears anything but black. His pants, his shirt, his hair, his eyes, his piercing, all black. And yet, he's found enough common ground with the juicy pink cashiers that they've become his cheerleaders. "He's awesome!" one said for my benefit, fluttering her silver-glittered eyelashes, and he smiled an appreciative snaggle-toothed grin. It was just the opener he needed.
Apparently, her compliment was enough of an icebreaker that he felt a segue was unnecessary, and, turning to me, he said, "I'm an insomniac. I have trouble sleeping." Unconventional, yes, but I'd assumed the statement would be followed by some sort of qualifier, something relevant, so it wasn't yet a story I'd retell. But he went on, and without pause:
"I'm an insomniac because I suffer horrible, HORRIBLE nightmares, really awful nightmares, so I try not to go to sleep until I'm completely exhausted and just can't stay awake anymore, like physically can't keep my eyes open, and that way I'm just too tired to dream anything really, because it's the dreams that keep me awake, because of some messed up things that happened to me, like accidents and shit, and partly because I do that thing on Mount Royal where we dress up like medieval warriors and battle, which I love, but that combined with my memories and all the transcendental meditation I do, well it just sets me up for some pretty crazy lucid dreaming, but I take part responsibility for it as well because when I meditate I can communicate with both sides, you know, like life and death and I really like talking to the dead because I know not everyone can do it and the dead are just so wise because they've seen it all and they can travel back and forth from the physical world, where the rest of us are so limited, but they can go to the realm of the afterlife and come back with this cool perspective and I'm not scared of them, and usually they're pretty nice if you just open up to them, but I think most people would be, so that gives me an advantage. It's all about compassion, you know?" he said, and he smiled. I smiled back and thanked him, sincerely. He'd given me the gift of absurdity.
"Can I get $40 cash back please?" I asked, and passed him my debit card. He smiled at me like an old friend, and processed the transaction. "The colours are in your aura," he said. "I see you can talk to them, too, but more on that the next visit. I'm an insomniac, so I have lots of spare time."
All these years I've lived in Montreal, I thought, and brought visitors to gawk at one of Quebec's strangest subcultures - its anemic Conans and their Red Sonyas - battling in homemade costumes with fur appliqué and fitted leather loincloths, wielding styrofoam swords, swinging axes of plastic, protected only by their shields of cardboard, duct tape and hand-painted logos. All that time, I've just written them off as freaks and weirdos.
It's nice to be right sometimes.