The Armchair Extravert

“It’ll be an hour.” And so I wait on a bench beneath the pharmacy windows after tossing into a cart the relevant needs and wants for the day.

I am studiously self-contained, though I employ an observer’s tactical advantage of lurking with a purpose. The message is received by all passers-by—except one.

His wife parks their cart in his care at the end of an aisle and advances to the prescription drop-off window. “Virgil. Virgil. VIRGIL.” No, he tells her he prefers to stand. He looks directly at me several times, this cart tamer, and I carefully avoid meeting his glances. While he is standing there at the end cap of the aisle, hidden in full view, several people and several carts stop abruptly to avoid hitting him.

So, he pulls his cart in next to mine, unnecessarily explaining that he’ll just stand there and become wall decoration to be out of everyone’s way. Virgil remembers when the druggist’s was a little building on a street corner. Now you had to park in a huge parking lot and walk halfway through a store just to get your prescriptions.

Virgil grew up in Portland. (Let me see, that must have been 60 years ago or thereabouts.) He got to know everyone in several neighborhoods through several moves his mother made for job and transport reasons. He went to Commerce High School and then went to work in the downtown offices there in Portland. Then he went into the Navy. They hadn’t had a car when he was growing up and the Navy taught him about mechanics, though he’d never so much as seen under the hood of a car. No, they hadn’t needed a car then. He could just walk down the hill to downtown. It was no problem.

When his wife had made it through the sizeable pharmacy pick-up line, she waited a distance away until he noticed she was ready. He went to join her, my instruction for a good day following over his shoulder. His red-white-black plaid jacket hung over his drooping shoulders in contrast with his long legs filling a pair of blue sweatpants—with a five-by-seven inch, off-color patch on the back of the left thigh. He looked comfortable indeed, as if roused from his armchair retirement for a trip to the druggist.

©2010 by Sandra Davidson

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