I was in Lucky’s grocery store this afternoon, and when I came to the register the man in front of me was spitting venom in a loud, fast, bitter voice. On and on, vituperation mixed with nonsense; as if there resided a demon inside him, and it had taken control. The man himself was slight, probably about my age, with messy dark hair rather like a rat’s nest, dirty clothes that hung on him, and two small old dirty packs. Most likely homeless. Most likely, a Vietnam Vet. One of the disappeared in our country. One of the unwanted, unseen, uncared for. Lost to the world.
As this ongoing disturbance at the checkout counter began to draw attention from wider and wider atmospheric circles, the clerk kept standing there in front of the register on the other side of him, his few groceries on the runner, her face filled with both alarm and compassion.
He went on and on, screaming obscenities while grabbing the inside of one pocket of his dirty levis after another, at times fingering out cash, and then stuffing it back inside. After a few minutes two other store clerks came up to stand with the original clerk, again compassionately, but on high alert. My feeling: this man could have done anything, could have committed any kind of violence, and not even known that he had done it. I stayed back about 15 feet, while attempting to hold space for everyone involved.
Another clerk came up. This one stepped in front of me to the man himself, touching him gently on the arm, and asking if he was okay. Instantly, the tirade stopped, and the man said in a clear low tone, “I’m fine” — followed by not even a heartbeat before the horrific spewing noise began again.
Two spirits appear to occupy this one being — one of them here among us, seemingly aware, but way overpowered by the demented other.
Another minute or two went by while we all stood there in shock as the assault on the senses, on normality, on culture at large, on Earth herself, exploded on and on. Then that same clerk took the few things the man had set up there to buy, put them in a bag, and tried to hand the bag to him. Tried to give the groceries to him. To no avail. Again, in instant clear response, that low sane voice: “NO! I have money” —said with disdain.
But this exchange, or lack of one, seemed to signal the end of the tirade. The demon was spent. Finally, the man moved off and slowly out of the store, still spouting, but clearly no longer a danger to the rest of us. The three extra clerks — guardians — stood by, watching him go.
As I went to pay for my purchases, both the original clerk and I were so flustered and in shock that we both kept making mistakes. The wrong price wrung up on the computer; the wrong procedure followed on the credit card. . . She was almost in tears. We talked about this man, and all the others who have been so deeply disturbed by this, as she called it, “broken system.”
Yes, broken. The system has broken down, and it’s up to us to break open. To feel all of us, no matter how difficult the task, no matter how frightening. To be at one with the whole.
Afterwards, I stopped in at a locally-owned pet supply store down the road and walked in, only to be greeted by this sign.
Jupiter/Venus in Leo: too proud to accept free groceries.