When I was seven, my mother took me to the grand opening of the Piggly Wiggly, the first grocery store in our town with automatic sliding glass doors. With the snip of a ribbon, the slumped-over crowd, waiting on curbs and licorice-black asphalt, perked right at the promise of free ham steaks and paper pig masks for kids under five. Like the running of the bulls, they trampled the rubber mat and charged ahead towards the fluorescent lights. The doors slapped closed, and I was left alone outside in sudden silence. I counted backward from ten as my school counselor told me to do when I felt like picking scabs and summoned my courage to move forward and find my mother in the frenzy. In tattered Keds, I stepped my feet on the mat. Nothing. The doors remained sealed. I stepped off the mat, counted backward from ten again, and stomped my rubber soles down one at a time. Nothing. I backed off slowly this time, skipped the stupid count, yelled like Carol Burnett doing Tarzan, and jumped with all my mighty mite to stick the landing with the force of two feet together. Nothing. I wondered if I had the power to make myself invisible, but I could see my puny self in the vinegar-scented glass. Through my reflection, my mother appeared frozen mid-aisle, gripping her cart and looking in my direction as though she’d forgotten something—milk, honey, bread, my father’s Old Milwaukee? She began to move toward me but turned down another aisle and left me standing powerless—unseen, unheard, unfelt.
Michele Alouf is an empty-nester who lives and writes in Richmond, Virginia. She is currently working on her first novel and a graduate degree in creative writing and literature from Harvard Extension School. Twitter: @MicheleKAlouf