One day last week, walking home, I noticed the familiar corner grocery store one block from my place looked peculiar; the flowers on the side were gone and the fruit bins in front were all empty. I went to the swing door and peeked inside, and it was dark and completely vacant. The store vanished; and I felt a sudden sense of emptiness akin to that of bereavement.
I had no idea when the store had shut down but guessed it was within two or three days; I returned home from another direction and didn’t pass it. There was no sign announcing its liquidation as some store do. Discovering it suddenly, I thought the closure might have been a flight by night event. Or, it just went bankrupt. Now, it’s over a week and I still feel sad whenever I pass by it, day or night. This is grieving.
The sense of loss was not just that of convenience. It was surely convenient for picking up small items on my way home at late hours when other stores were already closed. I would pick up milk, eggs, cookies, oranges and bananas, and such, once in a while; but, as the proprietor was Korean, as many of these corner grocers are of late, I relied on their supply of tofu and scallions, ginger, Japanese crackers, buckwheat noodles, and sometimes kimchi. In five-years time, I became friendly with young men who work there at night and learned a few words of greeting in Bhutanese from one, like kuzoozangpo, kadinchey, and chiru delek, and from another some Nepalese phrases, namaskar, namaste, and dhanyabad. The familiarity gained in personal contact becomes a part of the everyday living, and that is why the store’s disappearance affects us so. Operating all night, the well-lit store was always reassuring when, on rare occasion, I was returning home after midnight.
Even during the day, passing by, when I see the store abandoned and deserted, I’m so very sad, grieving.