In the coffee aisle

As I write this, I’ve recovered enough composure to put some words together.
A chance encounter has left me with a lump in my throat and some tears of regret.
It’s been my experience, when out in the marketplace, that people are usually impersonal, unless you happen to run into a friend or an acquaintance.
The grocery store, today, wasn’t very busy.  I had just come from the barbershop,
and remembered that I needed to pick up coffee.  It was an idle afternoon for me,
so I was taking my time looking through their selection.   I happened to glance at a woman who was looking through cake mixes or some such, and she returned my glance with a smile.  I suppose I gave her a bit of a strange look, and I regretted it instantly.
It was one of those times where you feel that you know someone, but also feel embarrassed to say so and to ask them who they are.  What happened next was
unexpected, for she walked right up to me, extended her hand, and said
I know we haven’t met, but you looked at me so I looked at you.  I’m Jessica.  I shook her hand warmly.  It seemed as if she wanted to hold on for a few seconds.  I told her my name, and said It’s nice to meet you, Jessica.  She said and you as well, my friend.  I felt like I wanted to stay and talk, but at the same time wondered how appropriate it would be.
In hindsight, I should have, but instead I made something of an awkward exit.
As I was driving out of the parking lot, I passed by the front of the store, and she was there, loading her groceries into a basket on her bicycle.  I stopped, opened my window, and said Goodbye, Jessica!  Strange….the way she reacted.  She looked a little downcast, then returned my smile, saying I feel like I know you.  You’re a lovely man.
Just like that.  A lovely man.  Her words.  Must have been a case of mistaken identity. What I did next surprises me even more.  Taking my usual route home, I stopped abruptly, made a U-turn, and doubled back.  Looking, like a fool, for a green bicycle with a basket on it.  But no, the spell was broken.  In the twenty minutes it took to get home, there was a tightness in my throat, and I had to rummage for that damn box of Kleenex.  Chalk up another one in the loss column.  Nice to meet you, Jessica.  My friend…..

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