The welcoming chime of the grocery store is too cheery for the hour. It’s the middle of the night: Sebastian would rather be in and out silently, a black ghost in this blindingly white ghost town.
The hum of the fluorescent lights is his only company as he darts through the aisles, snatching things off the shelves: dish soap, a bag of pork rinds, a tub of cookie dough ice cream, a box of Kraft mac n’ cheese, a pack of Caprisuns, a bag of powdered donuts, and a bottle of vodka.
There was no one at the cash register when he came in, but there’s someone there now. He’s—attractive, even dressed in a drab polo and cracking his jaw with a yawn. Somehow the fluorescent lighting doesn’t wash out his dark skin. His name-tag says DaVon, and under that writes, Here to Help.
Sebastian puts his items on the conveyor belt, careful not to make eye contact. After scanning the shelf of candy next to the register, he throws in a bag of peanut M&Ms.
“You just broke up with somebody?” His voice is deep and a little raspy, like he’s just recovered from a sore throat.
The scanner beeps. Shocked at the assertion, and even more so at its accuracy, Sebastian looks up and meets the man’s eyes. DaVon is flicking his gaze intentionally from him to the items still on the conveyor and back.
Not that it’s any of the guy’s business, but Sebastian says, “How’d you guess?” His own voice is scratchy, after hours of yelling and a couple shameful minutes of crying.
The cashier gestures at the items with his head. “Buyin’ this stuff at once, you’re either high as hell or you just got dropped, man,” he replies.
“You get a lot of people in here right after a breakup at this time of night?” Sebastian asks, a little sardonically.
DaVon seems unfazed. “You’d be surprised. What she do?”
The memory is as fresh and raw as a wound filled with glass shards, but why not reopen it for this stranger? It’s not like he’ll see DaVon again, not when this grocery store is closer to his ex-boyfriend’s house than he’s ever willing to get again. “He just...didn’t wanna commit.”
No need to recount every argument, every insult. No need to detail every needle-stab of Ells saying to Sebastian’s face that he wasn’t a fucking f—, that they were just messing around, as if dating for two years fucking counts as “messing around.”
“Damn. Sorry, man. Well, y’know, niggas ain’t shit.” The cashier scans his last item. “I’ll pray for you, though. You got a rewards card?”
“Oh, uh, no.”
“S’aight, I’ll just use the store one,” he says, and pulls a barcode from behind the register. “Gotta uplift the race, y’know. Not like my manager in here to stop me no way.”
He scans it, and reads out the new total. Sebastian goes in his wallet for his credit card.
In the front, where someone would usually put an ID, there’s a picture of him and Ells smiling, with their arms around each other. Gritting his teeth, he pulls the photo out and crumples it in his hand as he pulls out his credit card. If DaVon notices the ball of paper falling to the tile, he doesn’t say anything about it, which is probably for the best.
Sebastian goes to slot his card into the chip reader, and DaVon says, “Oh, that don’t work, let me—” and puts his hand out.
The guy takes the card, swipes it, and punches in some numbers. The high churning of the receipt printing sounds, and the cashier scrutinizes the front of his card. “Sebastian? Like, the crab? ‘Unda da See’?”
Sebastian heaves a sigh. It is too late at night for this. “Look, man, —”
“I'm just messing with you. S’a good name,” DaVon says, handing Sebastian his card back. “Receipt’s in the bag. You have a blessed night.”
“You too,” Sebastian says, and DaVon snorts. Sebastian picks up his bags, and disappears through the sliding doors, the chime announcing his absence the only sign he was there at all.
Find Everything Okay?
by Amarah Ennis