I am just returned from my local supermarket, which is enigmatically entitled “C-Town”. I don’t usually shop there, because they’re a little bare bones, but I didn’t have enough energy to hike on down to my usual place. It’s beautiful out; the sun is shining, trees are in flower, children are laughing and running in never ending, slow motion circles. A perfect day, almost, but it was a testament to how sick I still am that leaving the sunshine for the air conditioned bowels of C-Town came as a relief.
I walked in and this large, brontosaurus shaped lady with a beehive haircut was just in front of me, gesturing to no-one in particular that they should bring her a basket. I tried to edge around her but then she lurched forward and took a basket and turned to stare at me. I smiled in what has become my professional, glazed New York manner, took one of my own and went off down an aisle. Alley? Aisle.
I bought a chai tea soy milk juice thing. I don’t know why, but the ivory colors of the packaging looked soothing, and I like the idea of juice. At one point I found myself buying ketchup, which caused me to then buy some BBQ sauce. I almost bought some hot sauce to round it out, but managed to control myself. I checked the contents of my basket. Did I need all these things? Who was calling the shots here? Had my fever returned?
A Spanish song was playing over the speakers, a man crying for the death of his entire village due to some calamity that had left him with no legs but sufficiently alive to feel even more pain for not having died. He sounded very distraught, and then the song ended and ‘Don’t Stop Believing’ by Journey came on, to general applause by hidden fans throughout the supermarket. I stood still, the contents of my basket forgotten, because people had begun to sing along it.
“Just a small town girl, livin’ in a lonely world, she took the midnight train goin’ anywhere …” The most beautiful voice of them all was coming from one alley over. It was beautiful not because the singer was talented, which she was, but because the singer was completely unaware of her talent. It was innocent, pure, like the sound of a flute, like the ivory soy drink in my basket, like a cool cloth on a fevered forehead in the middle of the night when morning seems furthest away.
I walked down the aisle, and not wanting to stare, went to the check out line and placed my basket down on the conveyor belt and turned to look at the singer. It was a Mexican man, in a jean vest with a red bandanna tied across his head, crouched down and unloading cans of tuna from a crate next to him, singing as he placed them on the shelf.
I turned, surprised, and instantly looked away from my cashier. She had vampire eyes. It was almost too much, I nearly walked out right there. Contacts, I told myself. Contacts. Her pupils were huge, almost the size of dimes, and the irises were pure white, surrounded by a faint corona of black. I stared at my items as she wrung them up, and then turned to watch the Mexican guy. ‘Don’t Stop Believing’ was still playing, but he’d stopped singing.
“Credit or Debit?” asked the vampire girl when I handed her my card. I made the mistake of looking up again, and was confounded by her gaze once more. I actually just stood there, looking down, stuttering. When she rang me up, I signed and walked out, back out into the sunshine, the warmth of the afternoon, the sounds of traffic, the sight of children trapped in their slow motion elliptical orbits, mouths open as they ran around and around in circles forever.
C-Town. I don’t know why I don’t shop there more often. Or maybe I do? I’ll think about it when my fever goes down.