Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Wandering Wegmans

Sometimes it feels as if I will never get there.
A couple days after my father died, I went to pick up a food platter at Wegmans. My wife offered to get it, but Wegmans has always been a comforting place for me and I wanted to feel something. I’ve got it, I told her and drove to DeWitt. Walking across it, the lot seemed too large and the store remained in the distance even though I walked toward it, like in a dream.
Inside, I felt lost. I’ve been in Wegmans more than any other store. I was there the first night it soft-opened and am there two or three times a week. That evening I felt like I wasn’t really there or the store wasn’t real. I wasn’t anywhere at all. I was gone.
The catering woman said she didn’t have anything under my name or the name of the person who had ordered it. She didn’t have any food, the last order having gone out half an hour before. I stared at her. I wasn’t confused or surprised there was no food. Of course the food wasn’t there. I didn’t know what to do or where to go. The world had grown very large and I had become so small. Smaller than a child.
If you’ve never been, Wegmans is a giant place. The DeWitt store is one of their largest. Twenty nine aisles, a produce section bigger than a basketball court, a food court with seating for hundreds, prepared food of every kind, deli, cheese section, even an olive bar. There are over thirty check out lines. It’s a wonderland.
Dad died suddenly. None of us had a chance to say goodbye. I was moved into my own wonderland. I called my wife. The food tray isn’t here, I told her in a voice vacant of any occupancy. She said she would make some calls. Come home, she said, hearing my voice from the distant place to which I had gone. Nah, I told her. I’ll wait. Call me back when you know.
I wandered down to frozen food and back through the center aisle into the magazine section, over to the pharmacy outside of which I was met by friends, a couple who, I learned later, wondered if I was going to make it home. They offered condolences. Such a strange, single-purpose word, I thought. I told them of the missing platter. The wife offered her husband to get it wherever it was. No, I said, I got it. Sensing their discomfort, I lied and said that I had to get a few things before I left. My phone rang as I walked away.
The platter was at another Wegmans, twenty minutes across town. Come home, my wife said. No, I got it, I told her. I hung up and stood in the bakery wondering why there were bagels. I couldn’t imagine what bagels might be for anymore. They made no sense. I walked out and the parking lot again felt too large to cross, but cross it I did.

Today isn’t the anniversary of anything. I went to Wegmans and, not for the first time, fell again into that same fog and wandering. I felt lost and in the wrong, the whole place foreign and strange, a bad dream. I had no destination, no plan, and it was as if whatever I needed was nowhere to be found. Not in the DeWitt Wegmans or anywhere else on God’s green Earth.