Another snow day here in Asheville, after two weeks in the high sixties. The snow was a light dusting that barely clung to the windshields and disappeared beneath the first rays of sunlight, but schools were cancelled nonetheless. The parking lots were scattered with grains of electric blue salt.
I went to Trader Joes in the morning to get the groceries for dinner. It was early, the store had just opened and it was mostly empty. As usual, I visited my friend Dan who was working behind the sample counter. We drank those little paper cups of coffee and talked about 45 and his outrageous ban of immigrants, refugees and green card holders, and his slippery slight of hand, quietly securing Steve Bannon head of the National Security Counsel while we flooded the airports in protest and shouted in the streets.
Dan cut up a honeydew melon and placed the pieces on paper plates. We're doing what we're supposed to do, on this average Monday morning. We're talking about these things as they happen, we're refusing to let this feel normal. When I leave, pushing my cart towards produce, Dan calls after me, "You're brave, and we got this."
Between photo shoots and writing deadline, the nature and amount of my work fluctuates so much it would drive a lab rat to insanity. Without the predictability of a 9-5 job, my weekly routine is strung in place by a random constellation of daily deals, standing doctors appointments and weekly NPR news shows.
Mondays are for Chicken.
On Mondays, without fail, Earthfare offers a deal on chicken: 5 dollars even for a whole roast bird. I'm not going to lie to you, this was a big discovery for David and I, as it shaved six dollars off our weekly grocery bill. Six dollars, I'm telling you. You have to be really strict with yourself, however. You need to walk in to the store with your head down, dash to the prepared foods counter, grab your chicken and make a beeline for the exit, so that you don't feel tempted to grab a single item, not one single thing- that's the only way this truly remains a deal.
The ordinary things feel ridiculous right now. You're making dinner and you look down at the pot you're stirring and you think, "I'm stirring this pot right now as if nothing is happening."
But then again, you have to eat.
So on Monday, after chatting with Dan at the first grocery store, I drive to the second grocery store to get my chicken. There is an ancient man who works as a cashier at Earthfare, and he's quite famous in the area because he moves like a tortoise. He will slowly and thoughtfully pick up and scrutinize every item you're trying to purchase, inquire about its use and taste and country of origin. If you have any unmarked produce, forget about it. Occasionally he'll think of a question he needs to ask another staff member and he'll shuffle away, leaving you at the counter, shifting your weight from foot to foot and wondering if you and your food will ever escape.
If you're in a hurry, you must avoid the tortoise line at all costs, as it will be absolutely not end favorably. But if you've got nowhere to be, it's worth seeking him out. He's very friendly and I love answering his questions about my food choices. Today I take my place in his queue. I only had one chicken after all, and nobody was waiting for me.
He asked me to tell him about the highlight of my weekend, so I thought for a minute and told him about the anti immigration ban rally I'd attended downtown on Sunday afternoon. David and I had planned to hike to Hawk's Bill in the Linville Gorge to watch the sunset, then drive the three hours home, stopping for barbecue and ice cream along the way. When he heard about the rally we changed tack and went downtown instead, with the dog, who barked in perfect rhythm to the crowd's chanting and made a few new toddler friends.
Most of the drivers downtown leaned their heads out of the windows and cheered when they saw us gathered there in Pack Square. The laid on their horns and yelled. But not everyone, of course, and later on in the day a man and two women emerged from a tavern, cloaked from head to toe in bright orange Clemson gear and staggering drunk. The women were leaning on each of the man's shoulders but when he saw us he shook them off so he could pull his phone out of his pant's pockets. Suddenly without structural support, one of the women collapsed immediately there on sidewalk- she didn't fall, she just sort of deflated to the sidewalk and lay there like a melted snowman. The man had pulled his phone out in order to film us, lots of people who don't agree with us stand there and take video, I suppose it's a tactic.
Then he was shouting at us, but it was an incomprehensible garble, a little bit about Trump but mostly about Clemson Football, he seemed to like them both. The other woman, the one who was still standing, pointed her phone at us and started yelling, "build the wall! build the waaaaallllllll!" Her voice was high, and wobbling drunk, and she held onto the last word until she ran out of breath, and I couldn't help but think, "they won- these people won."
Dave and I left the rally before sunset and drove to the Mountains to Sea Trail off of the blue ridge parkway. It was snowing by then, and the forest was black and white and lovely quiet, but despite my best efforts that last, prolonged word remained caught inside my head, ringing between my ears. 'Wwwwaaalllllllll....'
The old man scooped up the whole, roasted chicken for five dollars even and placed it with magnificent care onto the scanner. He looked me in the eyes and said, "Young lady, I have to thank you for being at that rally. I was on the phone all day yesterday with moveon.org, we're putting together a rally at Richard Burr's Hendersonville office for Tuesday and I'm one of the organizers."
I told him I was familiar with that upcoming rally, I thanked him for organizing it.
"Are we going to give up?" He asked me.
No, I answered.
"Are we going to get tired?"
No! I said, more effusive this time.
He laughed. "Well, I certainly will, I'm an old man, but I'll just have a good night's rest and keep up the fight in the morning."
As I was leaving the store, nearly out the door in fact, I heard him shout out: "Keep the FAITH!" He raised a fist into the air.
"Keep the faith," I shouted back. And then the groceries were behind me, and I moved on with my day.
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