With their vast parking lots and chain stores, strip malls may appear generic, impersonal and characterless, but each harbors an intense web of social interactions, with an infinity of stories to tell, but to even state this is redundant, for there's no man, woman, child or dog who isn't, by his lonesome, a**hole self, a thousand-page novel.
In Scranton recently, I was daily dragged by Chuck Orloski to the Dunkin' Donuts on Washington Avenue. From its beauteous and ample plate glass window, I could espy the wondrous China Moon across the street, and Dollar Tree, Rite Aid, Brick Oven Pizzeria, Pro Nails and PNC Bank were all within rifle shot distance.
Chuck knew just about everybody in Dunkin' Donuts but the guy sleeping in the corner, with his head on the table. He introduced me to Andy, Hoppie and Melissa. Behind the counter was Ashley.
Ten days later, Brian was $50 short for his gas bill, however, so Chuck lent him $43, all he had in his wallet.
When Chuck moved into Lighthouse, a charity home run by a blind Carmelite nun, Hoppie gave his friend an 8-inch TV, for he was certain Andy Griffith, Columbo, X-File, Gunsmoke and the Philadephia Eagles could divert Chuck from always thinking about his many woes.
Turning to me suddenly, Hoppie blurted, "Welcome to America!"
Before leaving, Hoppie pleaded to Melissa, "And please, pray for me too, for I need your prayer." Then he got up and did a lurching jig on the open floor, to the mild amusement of the cashiers. They had seen it. Encouraged by their grins, Hoppie kept dancing for a bit too long.
Melissa has been in the US for 2 years and 7 months. With no husband here, she must manage six children, aged 18, 16, 14, 11, 8 and 5. Her 16-year-old daughter, Melina, wants to be cheerleader, but that's not going to happen, Melissa said.
It's her 14-year-old daughter, however, who's giving Melissa the most trouble. Mina has discovered sex and at least marijuana. "She likes black guys," Melina told me. Mina would disappear for days, and once, drove Melissa's car away and stranded her mother.
Yes, I know Melissa is not yet an American, but she will be one soon enough. Moreover, by wrecking her native country, America has caused Melissa to be here, so she is very much an American product.
I never sleep enough. Like, four hours, five hours. That's it.
I work at Dunkin' Donuts, from last year, October.