As I parked near the little storefront for the cleaners, a slim, impeccably dressed Asian woman came to the door and watched me. As soon as I opened the back door and got the mass of cloth out, she had the door wide open, letting heat out with a smile on her face. "Welcome in! Welcome in!"
I walked in to find a very neat, clean shop with every spare surface crowded with photographs of family, and the woman whipped behind the counter. She was eager to pull out a pad and get my information, and when I pulled cash out of my wallet to pay, her eyes sparkled. "When do you need it back?" She asked, and her smile grew into a wide grin when I shrugged. "Wednesday, yes? You good customer, in no hurry, I love you! Is first time here?" And insisted on shaking my hand, introducing me to the family in the photographs, and proudly proclaiming her citizenship and her business's history.
I thanked her very much, and walked out smiling, but there was a little chill going up my spine.
More and more, lately, though, business owners and employees alike have been standing at the doors of their empty shops, ready to greet me, welcome me in, help me however I can, and could they carry my items out? For all their helpfulness, their excellent service (whether I want it or not), I find myself reminded of a wake. Where the survivors are saying "See this man, and hear my story, and share this memory, make him real and alive to you as he was to me."
See me, see this business I have built with my own hands, let me shake yours. See my family, I support with it, see how long I have been in business, see how I am part of your community and love your country. See me, and come back, please, and often. Please. Please.
There's a little chill thought that won't go away. A little voice in my head whispers, as grey and aching as my old injuries: This is not a healthy country.