We are in the liquor store because the Red Stripe is running low in the fridge and we have no rolling paper.
Since it’s my neighborhood liquor store I say hello to the man behind the counter even though I’ve never seen him before. He stares at me but doesn’t respond in kind.
I think nothing of it.
In the innards of the store sit four mammoth coolers. I ignore the first three and slide open the fourth. Little thought is involved: I grab two Baltika 9s and a Tucher.
It’s Sunday, I think, the day of rest. I love the word rest. Such a subjective word, open to interpretation. My idea of rest may be very different from your idea of rest, but both are equally valid.
I set the big beers on the counter. A simple transaction, I think, say hello and ask him if he has any.
-Hello, how’s it going?
-Good, sir. Debit or credit?
-Credit. Do you have any rolling paper?
-No!? Are you sure? Last time I was here, you had.
I lurch over the counter, get all in his face in search of the rolling paper that I know is on the shelf behind him. I squint, a victim of myopia, one of the Sub-Adequate that will run into Darwinian extinction.
Blindness. That’s what I suffer from. Myopia is just an embellished term, a beautiful sound rounding out your mouth that stands for blindness. Get this: there are people who from twenty feet can see what I see at fourteen. I’m doomed if you think about it in stark terms, especially as I lurch over the counter, get all in the man’s face, and squint for the familiar Job 1.0 rolling paper. I think I see it, so I give my eyes more of a squeeze.
Nope. Some kind of box comes into a blurriness sharp enough for me to determine that it isn’t rolling paper, but a box of cigars.
-We don’t carry that item here, sir.
-But Bose carried it.
-Bose? Who’s Bose, sir? A speaker for music?
I want to right the man’s blasphemy, calling Bose a speaker, branding his name, mocking the great man who curated his job before him:
-No! What do you mean Bose the speaker!
My speech has become theatrical. I sound like Toshiro Mifune. My voice booms again:
-Bose, the man who used to work here. He used to carry rolling paper. I bought some from his hand.
-Bose doesn’t work here anymore, sir. And we don’t deal in that stuff anymore.
-We cannot have a hand in that kind of stuff, sir. It is too much liability.
-Rolling paper? People roll tobacco cigarettes with rolling paper.
I shrug and bunch my face into cracked glass. I realize the absurdity of his character:
-Liability?! What about all those liquor bottles behind you? What do you call all that? You supply dens of iniquity everywhere, and here you stand with the audacity to talk to me about liability.
-But, sir, we do not deal in that here. It would be like us carrying Dutch Masters.
-Dutch Masters, are you kidding me? That’s a little shitty cigar. I’m talking about rolling paper here. You sell every conceivable form of liquor and yet have morality issues about selling rolling paper? I want Bose back.
He has nothing to say to this. I suddenly feel like I hurt his feelings.
-But I like your prices. You keep prices low, and you have Baltika 9, that’s why I keep coming back, a repeat customer. Hey, I’m buying from you right now, aren’t I?
He returns my credit card.
Outside, the parking lot is full of parked and moving cars, people carrying bags, trash, babies in strollers, and a drop of rain that strikes my head and splinters into quintuplets. I walk to the nearest gas station.