I saw them as I came around the corner of the supermarket
aisle: two women, one middle-aged, one perhaps in her teens or early
They could have been any mother and any daughter, standing there in the
thoughtfully pondering the items on the shelves. But my fleeting
vision caught something about the younger woman right away, just in
brief glimpse of her, standing there with her mother.
Then as I passed, I heard the mother ask, "Well, did you like what we
had for supper tonight?"
"Yes," the daughter answered. And again, "yes." And some more, "yes,
yes, yes, yes," her hands beating the cart handle in time to her
The mother told her to stop that. She stopped. I didn't turn around to
look at them, but kept walking until I was near the other end of the
Then I stopped and turned, not back to look toward the women, but to
the side, as if I too were looking at the shelves. The women were
talking quietly to each other. I couldn't make out the younger one's
words. But I could hear their rhythms and their tones, and I knew them,
and I knew her for one of my people.
I wasn't looking at them, but they were looking at me. They were
looking, actually, at my dog. I could tell this much from the mother's
words. As I turned and he moved to stand beside me, they were able to
see his harness. The mother was explaining the significance of a
service dog's harness.
And so, standing there in the aisle, knowing they were looking at me, I
let my body begin to rock, let my hands begin to flap. Not too much. Only a little. I'm sure the mother never noticed.
After a few moments I turned away from the shelf and started walking
back in the direction I had come from, back toward the two women. This
time, as I was about to pass, the daughter stepped out in front of me
and held out a hand toward my dog. I stopped. She patted my dog and
said, "Hi." Pat. "Hi." Pat. "Hi." The mother gave a friendly smile at
the first pat, but after a few of them, the smile was beginning to wear
thin. I stood still, not speaking, not looking at
either of them. It was, at that moment, all I needed to do. I watched
her hands pat
my dog, and that was enough for both of us.
The mother put a stop to the patting, told her daughter that was
enough. Then she turned to me with another smile, and commented, "First
she's going to run away from it screaming, and then she won't stop
That was what the sounds said. But in the saying of them, and in the
tone of the saying, and in the look at me during the saying, what she
meant was this: "She is strange, and she does things that do not make
sense. You and I know better. We are like each other in being different
Then we went our separate ways: two people from the same world who had met briefly over a common focus;
third person, an outsider, so tuned out that she didn't even realize