This man cannot be more positive and good-natured. It’s not possible. He’s been working at the corner Citgo for over a year now, mostly afternoon shifts, sometimes early in the morning, and everyday I come in, every time, he smiles and jokes with me and asks questions to my son. He wears his hair long, down to his shoulders, and so he looks like some sort of hippy Bhoddisattva in a garish, yellow and red uniform.

Back in the car, Avery says, “He’s friendly.”

I nod my head in agreement. “He is a good man.”

When I come in next, alone, the man asks again after Avery.

“What sport?”

When I tell him that Avery plays soccer, his smile widens.

I must know. “What is your name?”


“Mine is Sebastian.”

We shake hands formally. He gives a slight bow. I must have this man over for dinner.

The next morning he is positively beaming, his eyes shiny with happiness.

I ask, “Something new?”

“Oh, yes,” he says, tossing his hands in the air. “My family arrived today.”

I smile back, genuinely happy for his man. “From where?”

“Northern India,” he tells me, smiling, ringing up my usual items.

“A small village you will not know of.”

“That’s good,” I say. “Good to have them with you. Especially now.”

He nods his head vigorously.

“Trump,” he says.

“Just be careful, please.”

He rings me up and hands me the bag.

“Will they be here long?”

I am hoping he’ll say, From now on.

“Oh, yes,” he says again. “They will be here for two months.”

“I am so happy for you.”

I shake his hand, and he takes mine in both of his.

“It is a good day to be alive,” he says.

When I come back a few days later, my new friend introduces me to his wife and son. They are shy and keep their distance. I walk over and lay out my hand for a low five. The boy, who must be eight years old, slaps my hand dutifully.

“Welcome,” I say. “Welcome.”

It takes me some time to return to the store. I buy my gas early in the morning, or fill up on the road, but weeks go by. I have forgotten about my friend. There he is, behind the counter, in the usual spot, but no big smile today. A small one appears as I approach the counter, wry, a little hangdog.

“You’ve been away,” he says.

“Yes, that’s true. I’ve been busy. How are you, Arjun?”

He shrugs. Then I remember.

“Your family, have they gone home?”

“Yes, yes,” he says. “They have.”

“You must miss them.”

“Oh, I do.”

He looks away as he hands me the bag. I stand there for a moment. He looks back at me, his eyes soft with emotion.

“After they’re gone, I cry for two days.”