Today, I saw him again after two years; He was limping while walking, his legs trembling, his eyes on floor and unshaved face giving him look of seventies. He picked one bottle of Pepsi, one pie of tasty cake and walked toward cashier counter where he asked to add one pack of Silver Eagle cigarette to his order.
On seeing me he said “how you doing”
I replied “Thanks and how you doing” then he got out of store and drove away in his old green Van; but I felt there was not much strength in his voice.
When I moved to this city from New York four years ago and went to buy cigarettes in this neighborhood convenience store, I saw him. As I used to visit this store daily for cigarettes, I observed that always he was moving first to ATM machine and withdrawing twenty dollar bill which he used to keep in his hand then walking towards cooler door and picking one bottle of orange juice, some crackers and three packs of Silver eagle cigarettes. We seldom talked but from his jacket I noted that he is working in a communication company from logo and his name printed on it.
I will call him Ron instead of his real name; I was impressed by his height and solid body built; One morning when I was getting out of store and he was entering I checked his height from feet marks printed in red-blue marks on side of door; He was 6 feet and 7 inches tall. In evenings when I used to go to store I was seeing Ron with his two daughters and wife also. His wife looked graceful woman with French height and girls of age 7 years and 9 years.
Why I am writing about Ron? The story of Ron is inspiring me to write after long time because it is story of love and happy family which I rarely found in this society.
More than a decade, when I came to USA, I gave up writing because nothing motivated me to write. Standing on any new place, I was unable to locate North or South or East or West directions without help of marking on roadside electric poles. When I was in my country of birth, from first class in School our teacher was telling us; Stand up face towards mountains; It is North side direction while South at your back; East is on right hand and West on left, so, in darken deserted nights on any road of rural far flung areas I knew on which side I am heading; When every Sunday, my grandfather was taking us after three hours walk to town Church from our village, on way, he used to tell us names of flowers, trees, crops in fields, fruits in gardens and wild berries which stamped in my memory. Sometime, when I get change from cashier in this store or count bills withdrawn from bank, I start counting them in same way as I was counting coins from my village grocery store when my mother sending me to purchase sugar or salt as Ek, Du, Tenn, Char… as taught in primary school in Urdu counting’s.
. After settling in America, I found it entirely different planet than my visits to this country: It was not that America which attracted me with sky high buildings, wide roads with traffic in lines stopping on red lights without police presence, comfortable buses and fast trains reaching in time, stores filled with smiling staff, laughing people in clubs and tasty foods: Now I saw people doing shop lifting weather they are White or Black American, where people abuse each other on petty issues, where any one can take out a gun and rob you in street, where innocent girls can be raped in darken streets, where police can hold you up without any reason and torture you if you not lie on ground head down on his first order, where inmates are shackled and hand cuffed when presented in courts, where a girl feels not shame to give her cell number to a Stanger while her husband or boyfriend is sitting waiting for her in car outside store, where homeless people shiver in winter in streets, where people pick food from garbage cans on streets and eat: Now I have answer to my one very important Question that where these old women are going at four o clock in morning? Because, during my visit to America, I used to go to striptease night clubs for drinks; but when I was leaving club for my hotel after spending my all money and taking bus instead of Taxi, I was seeing old women and men in buses. Now, I have answer of that question!!!
I would like you to enter with me in this convenience store of my neighborhood to feel story of Ron: It’s like other convenience stores across America which serve millions daily; we can say these as lifeline of Americans. They come here when thirsty, they come here when hungry, they come here for every kind of tobacco, they come here for coffee and tea, they come here to withdraw cash from ATM machines, they come here to play lottery, they come here to transfer money to their relatives in other countries, they come here to buy cakes and biscuits and many items which a home needs in emergency. Mostly convenience stores serve gas for automobiles but my neighborhood store not. These are stores where boys, girls, women and men meet each other and exchange cell numbers and become boyfriend or girlfriend for casual sex or love or marriage; these are stores where they yell on each other and breakup relationships; these are stores where couples enter arm in arm but make separate payments of their purchases; these are stores where mother pays her own and son pays his own bill;
Let us stay for a while in this store to observe its patrons who are 90% residents of this vicinity and 10% are travelers from this area; It is early morning and everyone is in hurry to reach to his workplace; these are handy men, construction workers, city employees, students and unemployed; Here enters one customer holding two dollar bills in his hand; He starts walking in store and picks one candy bar and shouts at lady cashier “How Much” when she tells loud its price that customer puts back that candy bar and walks to other Isle; He keeping eye on lady cashier puts some crackers in his pocket when lady cashier busy on register to tender purchase of other customers; Then he walks towards racks of Danishes and picks some up and walking towards cooler, he hides all stuff in pockets of his baggy pants, then stands for a while before cooler door and picks Brisk Tea bottle; then he pays to lady cashier one dollar bill for brisk tea and walks out of store; Watch this guy; he is walking in front of cooler door from left to right from last ten minutes; he looking on soda, juices and energy drinks very carefully but it seems that he is unable to decide what drink he needs; after 15 minutes he picks up one can of Pepsi and then walks to rack of cakes; he looks on every piece of cake very carefully for 5 minutes, then picks one 50 cents cake and walks to cashier counter; For Instance a person who is so confused that cannot select one bottle of Soda in 15 minutes then how he can selects his life partner or set his life goals; Here comes another customer; he walks straight to cashier counter; orders a pack of cigarette, swipes his credit card to make payment and walks away; When we stay for half an hour in this store, we can meet different characters; here is another customer; he stands in front of Hot Dog Grill and shout at lady cashier “Is it beef” if you come daily in store, you will find this patron asking same question every day to cashier because he wants to show that he is Muslim and do not eat pork. But Ron is very different than many such customers; he seems very determine and picks all his stuff what he wants in few minutes and walks out of store; Here Is also Penny box in front of cashier register where customers drop their pennies from their change that any other customer who runs short of change may pick pennies, dimes, nickels to cover his payment. You will also find some customers who will take all this change in penny box; some will block line and ask other behind him “can you spare a Quarter” “ok, I will pay the difference” and that customer will leave. Ron was among those who was always ready to pay for others who ran short or not wanted to break his twenty dollar bill.
One morning when I went to buy my cigarettes, the lady cashier said “You heard news that Ron’s wife died of heart attack last night” my first reaction was “Ohh, it’s so sad”. The lady cashier added “You see, last night she came to store with her daughters and Ron and she looked perfectly healthy and happy” then she kept on saying “sure, we have no control on fate, only Lord Ram knows”
When walking back to home after hearing sad news of sudden death of Ron’s wife, I thought, Ron like other men shall engage with any woman because he is earning good money and will start his new life.
For next six months, I used to see Ron in store with his two daughters but not with any new woman. I noted some difference in his daily routine because his company jacket was not properly pressed nor he was shaving regularly nor he was talking with other customers and cashier.
One evening I saw Ron alone in store, his daughters were not with him. I asked Cashier “You see, Ron’s daughters are not with him” cashier answered “I also not seeing his daughter with him from two weeks” I said “May be he have got admission for them in any girls hostel”. I also thought that Ron might have entered in relationship with any woman who have conditioned his 7 years and 9 years daughter in any hostel. This was what came up in my mind but I never asked any question about it to Ron.
Then months passed away and I never met Ron in store nor on street. One day I saw him again, he was walking very slowly towards Mac Machine; It seemed that he is not in any hurry this morning. I approached him and said “How you doing Ron” as usual he replied “Thanks how you doing” I said “Where you been, seeing you after long time” He replied “I had some medical issue and took disability” I asked “Ron take care” and walked outside store.
On my way back to home, memories about Ron flashed in my mind; I thought is Ron man of USA or any underdeveloped country where family values are at high stake; Where people not have money but love prevails, where girls commit suicide when fail in their love affairs, where wife stand by side of her husband in poverty, where all family members stand united in every issue and where friends can trust friends. But again I thought, I may be wrong, there might be millions of men like Ron in USA who believe in family love and honor. Who keep loving only one woman weather she lives or dies; which is universal way of love because love never dies;
(It is a fiction not a true story; PCP reserves Copy rights)