Tonight, waiting for my peppery noodle salad, I was congratulated on my Lao by the older woman on the plastic stool next to mine. She was 60 years old, the noodle shop keeper said, working her mortar and pestle. I'm from Vietnam, the woman said, nodding. Your Lao is good-- where do you come from?
I'm from America, but I have lived in Asia a long time. I listed some countries. She nodded again.
The pestle pounded like a muted bell. She asked if I was married and laughed when I said I hadn't met a husband yet. The trees in the temple all stayed upright.
I paid for my bag of noodles and we all wished each other good luck. All the earth stayed in the ground; all our organs stayed in our bodies. All that was normal for me and surely by now for them, too. For the grace of peoples my country has treated so foully I am grateful every day.
Everything is closed on Easter Sunday in Montgomery Village, MD, which makes me happy for the folks who have time off, but is frustrating when you need wire cutters, for example, or new sunglasses, or a digital voice recorder, all things I thought this regular old Sunday would be a good day to pick up.
Walmart, though, is open. Walmart, I guess, is always open, Christian or not. And while I generally loathe how the low prices at Walmart are arrived at and its actions toward its employees, I will say that one nice thing about this seemingly cookie cutter store, a big box slotted among other big boxes in a very planned community, where medium-sized trees grow in regular intervals along the sidewalks and the streets have faux-English names and the townhouse on one end of the row is indistinguishable from the one of the other end, is that in this Walmart is a sloshing sea of shoppers representing more than half the globe. The Maryland suburbs are great for this, I guess. Women are wearing bright, Tanzanian cotton printed dresses and turbans, headscarves and embroidered tunics, saris. Bumper stickers are in Amharic; conversations are in Spanish; dashboards are tricked out with Hello Kitty and waving golden cats. I hate seeing it at Walmart, but damn, I love seeing it.