We meet by the hamburger buns. She is black and riding a motorized shopping cart. I am white. I have just put my audio recorder away after speaking with a man who was stacking apples.
“Tell me a story about climate change,” she reads aloud from the cardboard sign around my neck. “You know, I feel like I can talk to you.”
I catch her eye. Her voice is gentle and pebbly with a Mississippi lilt. If voices had scents hers would be of fresh laundry. I take a step closer to listen.
“We don’t care enough about nature,” she begins. “We keep taking and taking and not giving anything back. I’ll tell you what. It’s hotter now than it used to be. I remember cooler Octobers in Mississippi.”
She shifts in her seat, eyebrow ring glinting under the fluorescent lights.
“Some people call me hippopotamus. They don’t want to listen to me because I’m big. But you’re listening,” she says.
“I tried to kill myself nine times. On the last time I shot myself and had to go to the hospital. They asked me if I hear voices. I said, ‘Doesn’t everybody?’”
I take a step closer and put my hand on her arm. It seems like the thing to do. I listen with the whole of my body.
“I hear the trees. I hear when they’re angry,” she breathes. “Yesterday I heard an angry wind in the trees. The trees talk to me. They comfort me.” I smile and nod.
“I can’t believe I’m telling you this. You’re the first person I’ve told this to. I can’t talk to the people around me because they’ll lock me up. All they want to talk about is who’s fucking who and Prada and Gucci. I don’t want any of that. My grandmother was a midwife. She was the last one who understood.
“I feel so alone. I’ve been to the dark places. The depression can get so bad.”
I ask if she wants a hug. She says yes. We hug next to the sesame buns.
“See that guy staring? He’s probably thinking: what’s that black girl doing talking to the white lady? The racism here is bad. And it’s not just white folks who are racist. It’s the black folks too.”