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Small Lessons

© Torsakarin | Dreamstime.com

I have a confession to make. I think I’m in love with a 7-11. Now, before I go too much farther, let me try to assuage your appropriate horror by saying that this newfound love found me, not here in the United States, but in the little lakeside town of Yamanakako, Japan.

Our meeting was sudden, and we met each other through Valerie, one of my new classmates at the school we were attending together. It turns out that Valerie, having lived in Japan for ten years, was an old friend of 7-11. I watched her gleeful expression, the face of someone holding a present behind her back, and wondered why she couldn’t wait to introduce us. Perhaps she didn’t realize that I had been burned before by a 7-11, that there was a long history of road trips to Texas, to California, and to everywhere else stretching between us.

Immediately, I was pushed into a parking lot of memory, overwhelmed by the perfume of gasoline, the bouquet of oily exhaust, and the kind of busy hurry that makes me second-guess myself as I stand anxiously in front of the sad, broken boxes of candy, trying to decide on a suitable lunch substitute. People breeze through the rows like they’re still moving at 70 miles per hour, only seeing yellow stripes rolling up in front of them. While they wait in line with crushed bags of chips and air, they look out the windows and they’re already driving, 60 miles down the road. The only thing that remains constant is the perpetual charcoal briquette on the roaster, going round once more into the dark cavern with the hopes that when it emerges, it will become a real hot dog. Squished into the corners of mostl...