The Curious Tale of Mr. Kale
He was everything I expected and wanted. So why hasn’t he returned to Whole Foods?,
The Curious Tale of Mr. Kale
He was everything I expected and wanted. So why hasn’t he returned to Whole Foods?
By Felice Neals
I met Mr. Kale on the checkout line at Whole Foods in Tribeca more than two years ago. It was in the cards — sort of.
A few hours earlier, my friend, Stephanie, had told me on the phone that she was now a practicing Wiccan — a modern witch who dabbled in “white magic,” offering guidance and predictions through candles and Tarot card readings.
This was news for several reasons — one was that she had always been skeptical of anything out of the “ordinary”; the other was that by day she was a by-the-book lawyer in New York City’s family court system.
She explained through my surprise and doubt that she specialized in candle healings, adding, “And I already have clients.”
“Really?” I was beyond intrigued.
“We all have access to this energy,” she said. The sound of a match being lit on her end of the phone filled the pause in our conversation. “I just know how to channel it.”
She knew that I would be all ears. I am, after all, an avid believer in all that is seen and unseen — the subject of several debates during our undergrad years two decades earlier.
“So, do you want a reading?”
I did, of course, though I wasn’t sure if I could trust it. “So, when did all this happen?” I asked.
“It’s been going on for a while. You know that I have always been a little psychic.”
This was true. She always seemed to know when someone was about to call. And she had once hit the numbers on the lottery and won $5,000.
“So breathe, relax and concentrate,” she said.
“Your heart space.”
“Oh, the third chakra,” I said, hoping to impress her with my esoteric know-how.
She inhaled deeply and exhaled. I closed my eyes. A long silence made me aware of the water boiling in my teakettle.
“OK,” she said. I could hear her blowing out the candle.
“That was quick,” I said. “Was I supposed to make a wish or something?”
“No. I’m just going to tell you what I see.”
I took a breath. My heart was racing.
“You will meet a tall, handsome stranger.”
I laughed. “Well, that’s original.”
“You’re going to meet him soon. Like this week.”
She was serious.
“He has an accent. That’s all I’m getting for now.”
Later that afternoon I stopped in Whole Foods and grabbed a sweet potato, almond milk, pasta sauce, produce and some gluten-free snacks. As I unsteadily approached the checkout, juggling the items in my arms, a cashier waved me over and said, “I bet you were only planning to get a few things, right? And then you see one thing, then another — “
“Yes,” I said. “I always come out with more than I plan to.” I also have an irrational aversion to shopping carts but didn’t think this was worth sharing.
I placed the snacks on the conveyor belt as the pasta sauce and milk slipped awkwardly from my arms. When my sweet potato fell onto the belt on the other side of the plastic divider, the customer in line behind me said, “I think this is yours?”
“Oh, sorry,” I said, taking it.
“Your healthy food is putting mine to shame,” he said with what I realized were traces of a British accent. I glanced behind me as the conveyor belt brought his potato chips, ground beef and Pellegrino water into view.
“Is that kale?” he asked.
“Yes,” I said, now facing a man who was, yes, tall and handsome.
“Do you mind if I ask how you make it?” the man said.
Soon we were examining the benefits of kale chips, kale salad, kale a la mode, the history of kale, the future of kale. Until we reached the exit, where we introduced ourselves (“Sam,” he said) before continuing our chat outside. The awkward non-exchange of numbers weighed heavily in the breeze that lifted a strand of hair over my left eye (which I hoped would add to my allure).
“I’m in here all the time,” he said. “I’m sure I’ll see you here again.”
“Yes,” I said, trying to contain my amazement that this was all really happening.
Then I called Stephanie. “It happened! He’s tall. Accent. Cute. More than cute. But why didn’t he ask for my number?”
“Of course it happened,” she said and offered to do a spread of tarot cards.
I sat on a bench and watched a pigeon circle a random bread crumb as Stephanie did her thing.
“Well, I’m not sure that you’re going to see him again,” she said. “But you might.”
“The cards are uncertain.”
The next day I returned to Whole Foods around the time that Sam and I met. The summer heat made my milling around the freezer section less conspicuous. I scanned the checkout counters and waited as the guy stocking the shelves began to replenish the cookies across the aisle. No sign of Sam. The time came to purchase my soy mixed berry ice cream.
I walked to the park and ate half of the carton’s contents. I would give it a few more days.
Day 2, same time. Today’s purchase? Coconut milk yogurt. Again, I meandered toward the checkout counter. A tall man was searching for his credit card. Nice, but not Sam.
On Day 3, I enlisted a friend to come with me.
“Why didn’t you ask me sooner?” she said. “Maybe we should hang out by the kale.”
“Yes!” I could have hugged her. This was getting embarrassing.
I placed some kale in a plastic bag. A man approached. Then another. Not Sam. I hadn’t realized how many men in the city liked kale.
Day 4: I planned on a quick run through the paper goods aisle. One always needs paper towels. The checkout lines were distressingly short. I walked to the longest line, where the same cashier who had witnessed our first meeting said, “Hey, you were here yesterday, right?”
He had seen me lurking. This was my darkest hour. “No cart or basket, right?”
“Yes, that’s me,” I said.
“Do you need a bag?”
“OK.” I wanted to ask if he had seen Sam and hesitated before taking my paper towels.
“Can I help you with something else?”
I politely declined and called Stephanie.
“I did another spread,” she said. “I don’t know why they don’t want you to know.”
Days 5 and 6 were quick visits. I think I bought dishwashing liquid.
By Day 7, I had decided to avoid Whole Foods, which now served as a reminder of every mistake, missed connection and lost chance I’d ever had in my life. Mr. Kale was now a symbol of all my breakups, of all the times that I wished I had spoken up for myself, of my recent ex, of my desire to procreate, of my fifth walk down the aisle as a bridesmaid, of my last trip to Victoria’s Secret (where it was suggested that I try chicken cutlet bra inserts), and finally, of my desire to have a Mr. Kale in my life.
A month passed. I needed vitamins. Whole Foods was the closest option. I had met an overzealous but brilliant software designer at a party and thought I had moved on from Mr. Kale, but as I walked to the cashier, I couldn’t help but look around to see if he was there. He wasn’t.
I walked to the park and sat on the grass. The air was warm. I was watching a ferryboat waddle on the river when I heard a man with a slight British accent say, “Where have you been? I’ve been looking all over for you.”
It wasn’t Sam (of course) but some other British man who then plopped himself on the blanket of a woman sitting nearby.
Yet my heart had leapt at the possibility. I had starred in my own romantic comedy that told the story of a brief encounter in Whole Foods with a tall, handsome stranger who liked kale and fueled my belief in serendipity or fate or something that made me so eager to find him again.
Maybe I have New York City and its millions of strangers to thank, a place where chance encounters can happen every day if you let them. I suppose I somehow give a signal to the universe that I am open to this sort of thing. Here, the magic of synchronicity is always primed to unfold, and I remain eager to ride its waves as far as they will take me.
Felice Neals is a writer and adjunct professor in New York City who is working on her first novel.
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