Thu, 25 Jun 2009 22:50:00 +0000

At Foodtown, the local grocery store in my Harlem neighborhood, I watched an elderly blind woman standing in the meat aisle — her seeing-eye dog had rested its head on the ground, staring at the beef flanks. From what I gathered, she was waiting for an employee to return with the items on her grocery list.

Then I heard a scream. Then another. And another.

"Michael Jackson is dead," a middle-aged black woman shrieked. Tears streamed down her cheeks.

The entire store heard. Everyone was on their phones, calling their friends. Several people nodded their heads and flexed their brows as they sorted through the chicken breasts.

The reaction didn't surprise me, especially in Foodtown. More than once, the grocery store had played the Jackson Five's "ABC" over the speakers. And more than once, I'd caught old women shaking their booties and whispering the lyrics as they picked up milk cartons. Occasionally, I’d even cathc myself singing and dancing. And once, someone caught me.

Some people were truly distraught. They acted as if they knew Michael Jackson, personally — and maybe it felt like that. One woman walked into the store, and an employee said, “Did ya hear? Michael Jackson’s dead.”

The woman’s face got angry — but not an angry angry, but a sad angry. “That poor soul,” she said.

Soon, the universe shifted itself back into place and my world felt normal again.

I was still in the meat aisle; I still needed my chicken. So I turned around and got back to shopping. And that’s when I saw her.

The blind woman had somehow found her way into a corner, behind an Oreo display. Her dog sat by her. When she heard me shuffle my feet, she said, “Honey, sorry I'm a hassle, but do you know who has my groceries? It seems I’ve been forgotten.”