By Katie Gergel

The man at the check-out counter has a wife who’s dying.

But you don’t know this. You can’t see this.

All you see is a stranger who rudely cut in line to buy a pack of chocolate covered pretzels.

His actions are hurried, frantic. The expression on his face strained.

But you don’t bother to consider the reason for this.

All you know is that you have a dinner to cook, and this man has made your family wait five more minutes.

Five minutes.

Time that drags on in anticipation for dinner.

Time that disappears in the blink of an eye or the touch of a hand when love lies sick in the hospital.

What’s the big deal about some chocolate covered pretzels?

But what is just any other snack to you is a lifetime to this man.

Her favorite food. The first thing they ate together. And what will likely be the last thing as well.

But you don’t know this.

Just like you don’t know this man’s name, where he is from, or what he does for fun.

You don’t know whether he is left-handed, or why he has that scar on his cheek.

You don’t know him at all.

He only affected you for a fleeting instant. He crossed your mind but not for long enough to summon any wonder about his life.

And when he leaves the store, he will leave you forever.

He will go hold hands with his wife, who will smile at the sight of the chocolate covered pretzels.

You will go make dinner for your family, your mind already thousands of miles away.

 

It’s a strange thing, the unknowing. The unawareness.

If everyone’s life stories were written on their skin like books for the rest of the world to read – would you?

Would you bother to see if there was a reason for why that woman cut you off in the parking lot?

Or why that teenager blew smoke in your face?

Would you read the book written by the man with the chocolate covered pretzels?

Perhaps you would, if you had time. But right now you don’t.

You have a dinner to make.