First published September 18, 2008. Adapted from John 4.
She went to Meijer at midnight.
Or to Kroger or A&P
or whatever grocery store is open long after most people do their shopping.
It was a small town,
everyone knew everyone.
Everyone knew everything.
That’s why she went to Meijer at midnight.
Because she didn’t need everyone
who knew everything
looking at her.
The women, with fierce defensive eyes,
clutching their husbands’ arms with quick tight fingers.
The men, wary and wondering.
First was fun at first but then not so much.
(She knew them by their numbers, her husbands)
Second was a fresh start, but physical.
Third, fourth, fifth.
No wonder no one talked.
No wonder everyone talked.
But she didn’t care.
So she never found value
and she never found hope
and she never found her.
And she came for groceries and bottled water
in the middle of the night.
And then a man walked up and asked her for a bottle of water.
In the wrong part of town.
His kind kept to themselves,
didn’t care about the equal part of
separate but equal.
His kind wouldn’t take a second glance,
would look askance
wouldn’t take a chance
on anything touched by
And the man walked up and asked her for a bottle of water.
She told him what she thought,
that he was mocking her.
She wouldn’t have,
not in a crowd,
but with no one around
really old music playing
in the middle of the night,
she felt free enough to challenge him.
After all, he was taking all the risk in talking to her.
He talked to her.
He asked her for help.
He offered her healing.
And she told everyone to come and meet him.
The one who listened to her.
And told her everything she had ever done.