His oversized, red finger shook as he attempted to choose credit or debit.
The cashier had been pulling receipts off the printer as I walked up, apparently they were telling her the card had been declined. I stood back, not wanting him to feel bad about what was happening. He was a big guy with a large gut. His fingers and wrists looked like they were sausages stuffed inside casing that was just a little too small. He was wearing a grey pair of sweatpants and a dirty t-shirt with a white shirt underneath, not the appearance of someone who was having a good day, or month, or possibly past several years.
He attempted to re-insert the card, missed, tried again, missed and then slid it in. He was visibly frustrated. Maybe it was the embarrassment, maybe it was years of alcohol abuse, but his skin was a darkish hue of red. My distance kept me from knowing how he smelled but I ventured a guess it was something like my ex-brother-in-law who would disappear for days on end only to show up somewhat coherent, but completely unaware of where he had been or what he had done.
The cashier helped him pick credit. He didn’t know the PIN. The card was declined again. She offered that he might try as debit, but without the PIN, chances were slim. One more go, one more set of receipts.
His left hand shook as he rubbed a $5 bill from his fist, asked the cashier to sell him one bottle as he had enough for that. She pulled back the two small bottles of cheap vodka, removing one from the bag and going through the necessary steps to void the transaction and start over. She kept her eyes down, not wanting to make eye contact, either out of disgust or just not knowing what to do to help the human being standing in front of her.
I almost offered to pay, but his shaking hands and appearance made me wonder if that would be a bigger disservice than just standing and watching. His predicament made me want to help, but like her, I had no idea what that meant or where to even to start.
She rang him up for the one bottle of clear liquid and he handed over his $5 bill. He slowly made his way to the entrance.
I walked up, handed her my two six packs, paid and headed for the door. He was only a few steps ahead of me as he walked to his car. It was a white, sedan from the 90s parked about 70% in a parking stall making me wonder if he should even be driving or what exactly was going on. He seemed a bit too out of it for a casual drinker and I hoped my observations were wrong and he was just down on his luck, but the red skin, the shaking fingers, no idea what his PIN was, not enough money on his card to buy less than $10 worth of booze all added up to someone who had abused alcohol a little too much, for too long.
He drove away. I started the car and did the same.