By Ariel Wetzel
Yuri Durkovich stood in a daze as he let his eyes adjust to the dim glow cast by neon over-head lights. The automated glass door started to shut but sensed an object in its path and loudly whirled back open, snapping Yuri out of his trance. He took a tentative step forward, intimidated by the high ceiling and overall immense size of the building. A passing customer bumped shoulders with him as she entered the store. She turned, gave Yuri a cold glance, and hitched her purse strap higher over her shoulder. He a hot blush rose to his face. How he longed to become invisible. He took a deep breath and reminded himself there was nothing to hide from.
Yuri thumbed the crumpled bill his sponsor family had given him, making sure it still was in his pocket, as he ventured away from the store's entry. The young man finally allowed himself to look around. He'd never seen so much food in one place. The mountains of fruit were lush and colorful, not the shriveled and half-rotten things he was used to eating. The aroma of fresh bread drifting from the bakery warmed his appetite. He wandered up and down the isles of endless cans and boxes and bottles that had images of strange foods he'd never imagined people being able to eat. The frozen isles contained freezers of endless choices of entrees and entire meals in a box, from mashed potatoes and gravy to chow mien with mushu pork. Even the choices of hamburger patties, which he knew was an American staple, were dizzying. There were not one but a half dozen varieties of meatless burgers alone! Yuri shirked away from the freezers, feeling overwhelmed.
It was the pet food isle that Yuri found the most fascinating. He'd never had a pet before. Getting by had been such a struggle that having a pet was a luxury he just never had had the resources for. All the animals he'd known had been for labor or food. The towers of canned foods and plastic wrapped squeaky toys, Yuri thought, must mean that pets were idolized. How strange that some animals were pampered and put on a pedestal while others served a similar purpose as the animals of his home, tools to pull a plow and then feed its owner when its usefulness was exhausted. What made pets different, Yuri wondered?
After making so many trips up and down each isle, Yuri felt numb from taking in so many new sights. He finally decided on a package of candy. He'd had sweets on so few occasions that he never passed up an opportunity. Yuri followed the other customers to the front of the store and fell into line. When it was his turn, he plopped the bag down onto the counter. He frantically dug for his money and handed it to the checker, feeling put on the spot.
"You want a bag for that?" the checker asked, counting Yuri's change. The blood rose to his cheeks. His mind went blank as he stumbled over his words. The checker grew impatient and slammed the candy into a small plastic bag. "Sheesh, it's not life or death, kid." Yuri just smiled nervously and accepted the bag and hurried towards the familiar and comforting outside.