Coexistence

They left the restaurant together after an enjoyable meal. The night was cold but pleasant. He strolled down the street with her on his arm, feeling relaxed and content.

They stopped by the supermarket to pick up some grocery. Although it wasn’t midnight yet, the store was already half-closed. They had to enter by the cashier, past the line of outgoing customers.

Their faces flashed in front of his eyes like a slide show. One stood out in his mind. Hardly reaching the end of the line, he recalled it was an old acquaintance, someone he hadn’t seen for years. He turned around and walked back to the start of the queue. The woman saw him and recognized him too. They exchanged greetings.

“So why are you shopping here? You’ve moved?” she asked.

“No. I came with my girlfriend. She lives just around the corner.” He looked around, planning to introduce her. But she wasn’t there.

He searched for her, in his mind, but couldn’t find her. Suddenly, he realized that she had never existed. It was all in his imagination. What was he doing at the supermarket? He didn’t remember….

“I don’t have time today. But we should have a chat sometime.”

The woman’s voice brought him back to reality, a reality in which he lived alone, with no girlfriend; just a few friends he met now and then. That was how things had always been.

“Here’s my phone number.” He pulled a pen out of his breast pocket and scribbled on a scrap of paper. “Give me a call and we can work something out.” He handed it to her.

She took the paper while paying the cashier. “So I’ll talk to you soon. See you.” She left with bags full of groceries.

He wandered around in the supermarket, feeling miserable about his life.

He noticed someone standing by the meat section at the end of an aisle, someone who looked familiar. He headed towards her. He had a vague impression that he had often seen that face, but exactly when and where?

He walked closer. He could see more clearly now. He began to feel a certain connection to that face. He mended his pace. As he got nearer and nearer, this feeling grew stronger and stronger.

Finally, he reached her. She looked at him. And he recognized her. It was his girlfriend.

“I wish they had more varieties,” she commented.

He gave her a hug. “I met someone I know at the entrance. It took me a couple of minutes.”

“I was there too.” She raised her eyebrows. “You disappeared when we entered the store. I looked for you but couldn’t find you. I just got here and you showed up.”

“But… I was right there… talking to someone… I even wanted to introduce you…” He felt completely lost.

They went to the cashier. “Did you see me talking to a woman right here, not long ago?” he asked.

“Yes,” replied the cashier. “You were talking to her while she was paying.”

“Did you see her too,” He referred to his girlfriend, “at that time?”

“Yes. She was standing right next to you, sir.” the cashier answered.

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