Jesus works a series of doubles at the only checkout counter that’s ever open, the one where the flickering globular light overhead seems ever in need of repair. Jesus is just over six feet tall, making the long, burgundy, pocketed smock he wears seem prominent and absurd. The smock is unmarked, as are the paper and plastic bags hanging from a revolving corral no higher than his hip, nameless, as is the off-white awning that arches over the entrance.
Under the smock, he is customarily clad in jeans, fraying at the hems, and a white linen shirt with loose stitching. He seems to have a vast array of white linen shirts with loose stitching. His hair, a thick, dusky mass of loose curls about six inches long, is held away from his olive-skinned face by an athletic sweatband. He has the kind of toes one would imagine, long and slender, with sand in the crevices of the nail beds. His footwear tends to vary, within the narrow range of huaraches and flip-flops and Birks. His eyes are an unremarkable brown, but his lips are exquisitely full. He has the nimble, four-inch fingers of a basketball player and Nine has grown to love watching him, as he keys in esoteric codes on the cash register touch screen.
Today is like the others. She, untethered from the trappings of consciousness, finds herself unceremoniously present with no recollection of arrival. Soon, she will materialize in some other holding cell, perhaps among an unusually vivid array of memories or in a dark corridor amplified with self-narration. And when she does leave Jesus’s curious company, it’s unlikely she’ll recall how she exited.
Until then, here she is, wanly pushing her empty cart, allowing herself to be zigged about by its rickety front wheels.
Jesus spritzes the conveyor belt with Windex before pushing a cloth in circular patterns across it. After watching it streaklessly dry, he folds the damp cloth and tosses it into a bin below the counter.
Like ivy along old brick, an inexorable pity creeps all over Nine. “This store is a front, isn’t it,” she whispers, more to herself than to Jesus, who chooses to ignore her, as is sometimes his wont.
He leans against the cash drawer, slinging one long leg in front of the other before folding his arms over his broad chest and lifting his wrist to aim the tiny remote control in his hand at the black and white surveillance monitors dangling over the automatic sliding doors.
It must be awful, Nine muses, to have to hang out in the abandoned recesses of someone else’s body, waiting for decisions to be made. She watches Jesus yawn, and there’s something endearing about the oval his lips form and the satisfied little sigh that escapes his throat.
He’s as stuck here as she is.