It began with a closed bakery.
The Liguria Bakery in San Francisco, founded in 1911, sells only focaccia. I learned about the place on social media, from a colleague who posted a photo of a delicious looking raisin bread. I miss a chummy workplace, where you learn this sort of thing leaning on someone’s desk after returning their stapler. But this isn’t a pandemic story.
After swimming this morning, I drove to the bakery, hungry and excited. Just yesterday, my naturopath advised me to limit my white flour intake to reduce the risk of cancer recurrence. But I would limit my white flour intake another day because also yesterday, I had to put my kitten to sleep.
Upon discovering the bakery was closed, I drove away frustrated. I nearly plowed into a Mini Cooper driven by a woman in a baseball cap who didn’t see the stop sign. It was raining just enough to warrant windshield wipers but not enough so they wouldn’t squeak. Sighing, I turned on the radio. Cyndi Lauper was on. Confusion is nothing new.
At the next intersection I spotted a market on the corner with a chalkboard sign promoting mushroom coffee. “You won’t believe it!” the sign read in cursive. The naturopath had also mentioned mushrooms. I could try the coffee, and maybe a muffin. I grabbed a tote bag from the trunk because we also needed a few groceries.
I didn’t see a basket, so I used my own bag to collect a few things. Milk for the kids, eggs, soy sauce, and coconut cream because it came in a pretty tin. By the time I approached the counter to order my mushroom coffee and muffin, I had forgotten about the items I was carrying over my shoulder. It was only after I returned to the car that I realized I had just stolen my groceries. I sat in the front seat, sipping my coffee, deciding what to do next.
I recalled the last time I stole something. Many years ago, a package was delivered to our house, and I opened it to find two cute t-shirts I didn’t order. When I flipped over the envelope, I saw it was addressed to a house up the street. I kept the shirts, even after a curious teenager showed up at our door asking politely for a package meant for her. I lied to a child. I only wore the shirts under sweaters because I was worried the teenager would see me. When my husband discovered my secret, he was disturbed by my excuse. “It’s too late. I opened the package so I’m keeping the shirts.” I assigned blame to a brown envelope and refused to accept responsibility. A shocking amount of time went by before I admitted I was wrong. My husband used to bring up Operation T-Shirt from time to time, until I instructed him that this was an Unmentionable that he should take to his grave.
“Excuse me,” I said to the man who had made my mushroom coffee. He was frothing milk and said loudly, “Hold on.” I waited, holding my tote bag. “Coffee ok?” He looked surprised to see me again. I nodded and said, “Surprisingly good actually.” Then, as I unloaded my bag onto the counter, I added, “I inadvertently stole these.” He hadn’t heard me because of the mask. “I stole these,” I said loudly. “I’m sorry.” The petite woman in the yoga pants waiting for her drink looked over at me. I suddenly felt self-conscious about the oversized flowered coat I wear after swimming.
He finally understood. “You didn’t pay for these,” he said, wiping his hands on his apron. Yoga woman pulled out her phone. “Correct,” I said, putting my credit card on the counter. After the transaction, I put the items back in my bag, nodded at the woman, and scurried to my car. I removed my mask, took a sip of coffee, and looked in the rear-view mirror. My swim cap had left giant creases in my forehead.