"You're American?" The question comes from a woman's voice as I ponder apples in the produce section.
"That's what I hear," I respond without looking up.
The apples fascinate me and I'm hungry so I take one in each hand, weighing them against each other, rolling them in my palms. Each is doubly wrapped. The first layer is a thick foam webbing to protect to protect from bruising. Second comes a mummification of plastic wrap, ensuring the apple cannot escape its destiny to be purchased and eaten.
"Do you live nearby?" Her speech is insistent yet unrefined. The words fall out of her mouth like heavy marbles, slowly, clinking against each other, fighting to get in the correct order as they roll along.
"In a building down the street, above the Enzo bar." Instead of trying to describe the intersection or the building exactly, I find people respond better when I tell them my location in relation to landmarks like the wine and beer bar that's housed in my building's first floor.
"Enzo!" She squeaks. "Nice place."
I look up into round eyes and a smiling face. The woman can't be much older than I am and wears a blue apron emblazoned with "LAWSON" in bold white letters. Her perfume has hints of vanilla. "You work here?" I ask the dumb, obvious question.
"Yup!" she beams with a smile to melt the wrapping around my apples.
"Do many of your colleagues speak English?"
"Colleagues," she struggled out the word.
I point to another Lawson employee shelving jars of pasta sauce. "Other workers."
"Oh! No. Only me."
She holds out a flimsy-looking plastic bag and nods. I deposit my two apples inside, giving them a third layer to protect them from spoilage, exposure, and Act of God.
"Thanks," I say, taking the bag.
"Ayame," she points to her chest and her name tag, where two dense, white block characters built from many linked lines characters are stamped onto a blue background. "My name."
She waves and leans her head to the left with a smile. "Good to meet you!"
And then she flits off, vanishing between two pallets and behind a tall shelf, out of sight, leaving me holding the bag of apples.