She stared at the money I handed over as if she wanted to say something, so I said, “No changes. I don’t want any change.” She said, “All right. But do you have 80 cents?” I hesitated and then pretended to look into the inner crease of my wallet, which held coins more than a dollar. “No, I don’t.” I lied. I couldn’t give her the coins, which are precious right now. Everywhere you go in New Jersey, there are signs of coin shortage. I’d rather give up 20 cents of change. The cashier is the prettiest I’ve ever met. She’s probably half black half white and probably a little bit Asian or Latino throwing in. At first I didn’t notice, but as time passes by, I couldn’t help observing that whenever it’s her shift, some guys would wander in the aisles, holding one or two small items to the checkout as the excuse for the visit. They just want to get a glimpse of her beauty. When I was younger, I would think the girl is lucky to have so many admirers, but now I am older and wiser, I tend to think that it’s such a burden to have people you don’t know–and don’t want to know–to come to stare at you. Well, some people like it. I mean just look at those celebrities. Some would like the attention they receive. It’s all civilization’s fault. I think civilization is driving people crazy. When we were cavemen and cavewomen, things were not as complicated as this.
H Mart’s eggplants are not fresh. Actually they look like they were shelved in another store–probably in New York City somewhere–for a week before being shipped to New Jersey. They are about to lose their shine on the skin and little purple wrinkles appear here and there. Longon is almost 5 dollar a pound–unbelievable. Who’s going to pay 5 dollars for a little handful of this? In my grandmother’s hometown, longon grows everywhere in the wild and when you walk in a path, longon loaded branches touch your head, begging your attention. Just the stories I heard. If my grandmother’s hometown is really so admirable, why didn’t she stay there? Why did she move to the big city and live in a slum like house? If it were me, I’d rather suffer poverty with limitless longon to munch on and a beautiful little subtropical village to stay in. The same question I had when I watched TV programs about Italy. I mean it is so beautiful a place–wherever you look, the bluest Mediterranean is staring back at you. I wonder why those Italians would want to trade such a beautiful place for the cramped immigrant quarter of New York City?
Life is full of unexplained questions. The question I have for myself is: Am I also the person who has given up something beautiful and chased something imaginable?