Sew and Vac

October 1, 2015 § 2 Comments

woman-vacuuming-smiling-portraitI almost ordered the vacuum bags online, but I had seen the sign of the store going out of business soon in the huge shopping complex off Route 1, and I thought maybe somehow I could help it out a little in the end. Maybe just to stick it to the big box stores surrounding it. Plus, it was right beside the regular grocery store, and we needed toilet paper, soap, things that are exotic and pricey at Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods.

The guy at the counter quizzed me on my vacuum model, but I had forgotten to look. “It’s the red one,” I said. How should I know what it’s called to the company? I call it the vacuum.

“Well, there’s a lot of red models,” he said. We finally took a good guess at what I needed–me and this young Jersey guy working in the Sew and Vac, and I wanted to ask him how he got there, but he asked me first. “Where are you from?” he said. “Well Kentucky first, but I moved here from North Carolina.”

To him, it was all the same South, never mind the huge distinctions in the places in my mind. The closest he’d been to either one was Ohio.

“Linda’s from North Carolina,” he said, pointing to a small woman, maybe in her sixties, at the front of the store, trying to sell a man on a Miele. Linda heard her name and perked up. She left the man to ponder the different models and came up to me. “Where in North Carolina?” she said, almost an accusation. She had a tinge of nasal mountain to her voice, and a raspiness that probably came from smoking for most of her life, but her o’s revealed her as a native of somewhere down east.

“I lived in Durham for fourteen years,” I said. “The second time I lived there.”

“Ok,” she said. I had passed some test. “I’m from Manteo. Most people, I just say I’m from the Outer Banks. They don’t know Manteo.

“I do,” I said. “Your accent sounds like home.”

“Do you like collards?” she asked. I confirmed that I did. “Well,” she said, “let me tell you about the flea market.” Linda described the delights I could get at the flea market, the fried chicken, the fresh collards, all the good bargains.

“Do you have any friends to go with? I doubt anybody in Princeton will go to the flea market,” she said. Before I could explain my situation, defend myself with the fact that I had only been here a month, or be ashamed at my lack of extroversion, she wrote down her phone number and told me she’d go to the flea market with me.

Then Linda and the young man at the counter showed me the worst traffic circle in New Jersey on Google maps, just so I’d know. It’s near Bordentown, just so you know. They took me behind the counter so I could see the computer screen better, and pointed out the shopping center they were moving to, just down the road from the traffic debacle. I know I’ll eventually go there.

Finally, the young man handed me my vacuum bags, Linda handed me her card, and she hugged me tight, as if to comfort me, as if I’d known her for a long time, and she’d missed me. I’d missed her too.

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