Anabelle places the cut-in-half crate on the counter, gently so as not to crack the eggs. She reaches into her purse and fishes for her wallet, finds the dollar and two quarters and extracts them, makes eye contact with the Lebanese man towering in front of her, whose store she has been into so many times, but whose name it has never occurred to her to ask. Surely he does not know hers either. But they recognize each other; she acknowledges him with a nod. He smiles momentarily, but it evaporates.
“It is two dollars now,” says the Lebanese man.
“What?” asks Anabelle.
“Two,” he says, holding up fingers to illustrate.
Anabelle thinks for a moment. “Two dollars for six eggs?”
“Yes,” he says. The white man standing behind her shuffles his feet impatiently, opens his still-unpaid Manhattan Special, reaches into his pocket for his phone. The fizzing sound burns Anabelle’s ears, implores her in that quiet but certain New York way not to hold the line up, but she needs a second, can’t he see this is important?
“Why’d the price go up?”
“This is what prices do,” says the Lebanese man.
“I might need to find another store,” she quietly threatens, barely above a whisper. Behind her she hears the drip of overflowing coffee soda on the floor. “It always used to be a dollar fifty,” she explains, a little louder, slowly, stressing the words as if to make him understand how important these eggs are.
“Prices go up everywhere,” he says. The door of the bodega swings open, morning sunlight suddenly streaming into Anabelle’s eyes, and two white girls walk in, simultaneously laughing and looking at their cell phones. One walks to the back of the store where the beer is, and as the door slams the other one greets the Manhattan Special drinker, ignoring Anabelle and the owner entirely. “My price goes up, they go up at the supermarket, they go up at the other delis. Listen, you find these eggs for less, I give them to you for free.”
“Go, then, I have more customers.”
“We’re in no rush,” the white man says. The girl pushes him in a way that is clearly supposed to be meaningful, but says nothing. She looks at her feet, then, exasperatedly, at her phone.
Anabelle sighs. “I only got a dollar fifty.”
“You only have a dollar fifty?”
“I can have maybe four eggs?”
“And what you want me to do with the other two?”
For an uncomfortably long time they look at each other, ignoring the line behind them. The girl who had been in the back returns with a six-pack of Flying Dog. She looks around as if she is expecting another person to be there, besides her two friends. Then she takes out her phone as well, and the three of them are all staring at their screens. It appears to be a ritual.
“Listen,” the Lebanese man finally says, “this time, this time only, I give you eggs for one-fifty. You give me fifty cents tomorrow.”
“Thank you,” Anabelle mouths silently. She puts her money on the counter and takes the eggs. As she leaves, she calls back to the register, “God bless!”
“Yes, yes,” he says, “and what can I do for you, my friend?” As the door slams behind her, Anabelle can hear the white man answering. “Just this,” he says, “and a blue pack of Spirits.” The sun is still in her eyes as she walks home.