Winn-Dixie Man by Melody DeRogatis

I’ve worked at the Winn-Dixie going on four decades now, and my wife doesn’t like it much. I never really understand why. I got Katie and Brad through community college. I get her roses every birthday, valentine’s day, and sometimes “just because”. Sure, it’s not glamorous, but we’re not glamorous people.

I’ve worked at the Winn-Dixie going on four decades now, and there’s certain things I’ve gotten really good at.

I can re-stock the Coca-Colas, warm ones in the back, in 10 minutes flat. I don’t even need to take the cold ones out of the cooler.

I can lift 125 pounds across the slippery linoleum floors, without falling down once. (And that’s an accomplishment, because I am a clumsy guy.)

I can even get through a check-out line with up to 15 people in it in the five minutes I have before I go on break.

They may not be the most practical skills, but they serve me well in what I do.

I’ve worked at the Winn-Dixie going on four decades now, and the thing I’ve gotten best at is telling which of the girls has eating disorders.

Nah, it’s not what you think… it’s not the way they’re made up or anything like that. They can be anything. Short, tall, fat, skinny, black, white, whatever. Some of them wear the tiny jean shorts that just cover their butts, with the skimpy little tank tops… Some of them wear baggy, ugly sweaters that you can’t even tell they’re a girl.

But they do all look the same, in a way, at least. They don’t stand right. They sway back-and-forth, or they slouch all weird. They never smile. But really, the weirdest thing, I think, is the way their eyes are all glazed-over like. They never make eye contact with anything. Not the cheeses, not the pop, and definitely not me.

I’ve worked at the Winn-Dixie going on four decades now, and I always see these girls the same place. Well, not the same place, exactly. Of course, it’s always at the Winn-Dixie… but sometimes it’s at the deli counter, or by the bags of chips, or even swaying by the check-out counter staring at the gum.

“Can I help you find something, miss?” I always have to ask. Winn-Dixie rule #1: always provide the most excellent customer service of which you’re capable.

“No, thanks.”

“I’m good, thanks.”

“Oh… uhh… what? No. Thanks.”

I always catch them off guard… but they always say “thank you”. They’re in their own little world… staring at the food. I know that they don’t really need anything. The customers, the ones who need something, they usually have a confused look in their eyes… not a dead one.

But I figure, if I can distract these girls from the monsters in their mind for a minute… how many calories in frozen garlic bread, how much sugar in a Reese’s cup will put them over their amount for the day, or whatever, I’ve done my duty as a customer service representative.

I’ve worked at the Winn-Dixie going on four decades now, and I’ve never once told anyone that I understand these girls.

My pap saw me cry once when I dropped the little bit left of my ice cream cone on the hot, Sarasota ground when I was a boy. He hit me.

“Why are you crying, boy?” he bellowed at me.

Men don’t cry.

Men don’t care if they’re fat. Or ugly. If their wives don’t want to fuck them.

My wife certainly wouldn’t understand. My kids definitely wouldn’t.

Men with guns don’t have eating disorders.

I’ve worked at the Winn-Dixie going on four decades now, and I’ve always wanted to tell these girls that it’s going to be okay… but I can’t bring myself to tell them that I understand.

Why would a 60-something, overall-wearing, trucker-burping man understand what these girls are going through?

But I know what it’s like to stare longingly at the pints of Chunky Monkey.

I know what it’s like to get the “look” when I help myself to an extra couple dinner rolls… not from my ma, but from my wife.

I know the feeling of wanting to slice my neck open to see if all the fat will drip out.

But I’ve worked at the Winn-Fixie going on four decades now, so what do I know?