At the Saretto supermarket, I plunk my fruit and cans on the conveyor belt and say hello to the cashier. “Que tal?” I ask.
“Muybiengracias,” she replies, as she drags bar codes across the scanner. Then she murmurs quickly, “Gracias a Dios.”
There is nowhere to place my basket, so I jog away from the cash register and place it in a pile of other baskets. When I return, I see a young man in a bomber jacket. He’s skinny and nervous, maybe 20 years old, and he bounces on the balls of his feet. Then I see his one single purchase: a small box of condoms.
The cashier scans them.
“No, wait,” I say in irritated Spanish. “Those aren’t mine.”
The youth freezes. He looks at me helplessly. He just wanted to buy the little box and scurry out the door, no problem. I can tell he didn’t want to jumble our orders, but he has. I wait for the cashier to strike the condoms from the record, but she can’t, so instead she turns around and calls over the manager, who takes her time. So we wait, the three of us, crowded around some soup, a papaya, and one packet of rubbers.
The manager deletes those extra colones from the bill.
“Go ahead,” I say.
The young man sighs with relief and glares at the floor tiles, desperate to get out of here.
The cashier is beautiful, incidentally, a swimsuit model disguised in a gold spectacles and a collared blue uniform. The cashier would never be a swimsuit model, because she’s the type who thanks God every time I ask how she’s doing. But no wonder the young man is so jumpy. Of all the women in the world, this kid had to fumble his condom order in front of this one.
He pays in cash. The receipt prints out. The cashier stuffs his box of condoms into a plastic bag and the kid practically sprints away. He has to be somewhere. Time is wasting.
But I can’t help myself.
“Hey, muchacho!” I call.
He turns around, startled, wondering what fresh humiliation awaits.
“Buena suerte,” I say.
It registers. He smiles, blushes, and charges out the door.