Shaune McCarthy and Jewel Beth Davis

Shaune McCarthy
“If You’re Going to Help, Help”

Jesus at the Rite Aid
By Jewel Beth Davis
Inspiration piece

I walk through the aisles of the local Rite Aid. It is three minutes from my home by auto. Convenient but high priced and crammed with marketing ploys. Bright lights and primary colors of products and signs jump out at me to distract me from my goal. I strut the aisles with loud steps that announce I am a customer with a purpose. My boot heels beat the floor. I am not here for pleasure or browsing. I have somewhere else to be.  I’ve come for allergy pills and nasal spray, for which I’ll pay at least $5 more than if I’d gone to Walmart. But I can’t go to WalMart. They treat their employees as poorly as human traffickers treat their sex slaves. A bit hyperbolic but close enough. Thoughts, as always, are streaming through my mind. Non-stop, in living color. The music on the loudspeaker is a mix of the sixties through the eighties. Barry Manilow is singing, “Time in New England takes me away. Long rocky beaches, you by the bay…”

I’m not looking at my phone as others around me are. A couple in their late twenties are walking down the cold medicine aisle, with both thumbs twiddling their phones. They do not speak to each other or look up from their phones. They have multiple piercings, noses, ears, eyebrows, and tattoos that snake from their hairlines along their shoulders and towards the center of their chests. Both wear intentionally ripped tank tops that promote Soundgarden. The woman’s breasts are overexposed for my taste, but then I like subtle sexuality for myself and those around me.

I round the corner and enter the last aisle adjacent to the pharmacy. A man in beige pants and sweater vest is shopping for something at the other end of the aisle near the cough drops, across from the anti-itch sprays and creams. I register that he’s a man in beige, but nothing else about him stands out. His features are also beige.

I step down the aisle, and as I do, my left ankle snaps and folds over unnaturally. A searing pain explodes from my ankle and tracks up my leg, all the way to my hair follicles. Without knowing how I traveled, I am on the floor tiles, moaning and clutching my ankle. In the middle of Rite Aid. The tiles feel cold and slightly sandy.

“Ohhhhhhhh.” Little reoccurring explosions continue sparking in my tibia. I know I can’t stand up. So, I don’t.  I lie on the floor on my side, gasping. The pain ricochets back and forth. It is everything. Nothing else exists.

The beige man hurries towards me. “Are you all right?” His affect, which is flat, belies his words.

I think he will offer me his hand and help me to stand up. “I don’t know if I can stand yet,” I say. I feel panicked. My thoughts are racing. My breaths are rapid and incomplete. I wonder if I’ll be able to walk or if I’ll need to go to the hospital in an ambulance. I drive a manual transmission. I use my left foot for the clutch. Will I be able to drive home?

“Wait. Don’t try to stand yet. Stay where you are,” the stranger says.

Perhaps he’ll call someone who works in the store to help me. Maybe they can give me an ice pack or some ibuprofen. None of the employees have yet to see me. The pharmacy workers can’t see me on the floor.

I am unprepared for what he does next. He kneels beside me and lays
both hands on my ankle.

“Dear Jesus,” he announces to somewhere towards the sky, “please take away all this woman’s pain and with your power and glory, heal her ankle completely. In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Lord, thank you, Jesus. In your name, may she be healed and pain free.” Then he stands, his expression not registering any emotion.

He says, “How is your pain? Is it gone?”

He is unaware that he’s just invaded my personal space and foisted his religious beliefs on me, someone who doesn’t believe in Jesus as God. I suppose he just assumes everyone believes in Jesus. So, despite that I am furious, that he inserted himself into my life and imposed his religion upon me; that he touched me without my permission; that my ankle is still painful; instead of telling him the truth, my first impulse is to avoid hurting his feelings.

“Yes, much better, thanks.”

He doesn’t help me up. He leaves with a quiet air of holy righteousness. At least, that is my perception.

I feel confused. What about my feelings? Sure, he meant well. I think. But his actions were intrusive and inappropriate. He touched me without permission. He prayed using words that are against my religious beliefs. I allowed his feelings to be more important than mine and I didn’t speak up to protect myself. If I don’t take care of myself, who will?

Eventually, the extreme pain subsides and settles into small pulses. I can get up on my own and I’m barely limping. I pass by the pain medicine section and purchase the allergy medicine, drive home, ice my ankle and take Ibuprofen. My ankle gets better eventually. All is well. Except for the fact that a stranger, whose name I don’t even know, imposed his religious beliefs on me when I was vulnerable. Next time, I’ll do…next time, I’ll say…

I’ll say, “Don’t touch me.”

I’ll say, “I’m Jewish.”

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