March 25, 2017
Cabinets are bare. The fridge is bereft of items. You gather your senses and venture forth.
You drive and make your way there and mentally prepare for the (not unpleasant) tactile onslaught.
Air flow. You briefly consider the sequence: doors met gently, then parted, then rejoined themselves.
They sense you and divide accordingly. You try not to think about it too much.
It’s all light bulb scented and spacious, this cavernous room. A gloomy-bright where you stand. You drift towards the dim corners for their quotidian relief; the avoidable spaces you find so soothing. You mill about and breathe and build energy.
All right, then: to the right. Color-wise, your favorite location.
You get an eye-full of the primaries and the strangely purple, all orderly, sorted. You run your hands over them because you’re allowed. You whisper, “You can.” You ripple your fingers. Strays, possibly at random, get hefted, thumped, returned and patted. You attend to the orderliness of it all, respect the sorting. You’re not a monster.
Back wall, corner, narrow tubs, more thumping…these more for the sound than the feel. These aren’t your favorite.
Next path over, you stare down its length, begin to march. You need nothing here, but you stomp past it all. You like to have properly trod the paths, all of them, simply for that frivolous sense of completion.
U-turn into another and you pause the march. You pat your pockets. You feel a wallet and keys and a foldy phone from Olden Times. You dig around the pocket and find nothing else, none of the prompts you know you need. You left one behind or forgot to write one.
You mumble curse words to yourself and ignore the reaction from strangers. They’ll forget you. It’s the thing you like about strangers.
This path, it’s for drifting. You go slow, then pause. You speak: “The cans here.” You lift them up, one at a time, give them a good squeezing. You like the lack of give and the strange ridges. You think about those ridges a lot. You place the cans back, gently, facing the correct direction. You’re not a monster.
More drift. You let your fingers splay out and caress invisible lines onto passing boxes. Their blankness feeds silence into you. You take it in, keep it, selfish. Silence as appreciating currency. You’re rich with it, in this moment, the royalty of this path. Your reign abstemious and short-lived. Here, then, ends the path.
There’s the back wall again. It stares at you. You feel nothing.
The way forward swivels into the next stretch. Tubes and sacks and bottles. You wish you had your prompts. You’re not sure if you should be here. The sacks glower. You press an index finger into one, unimpressed. The drabness here smothers you. You exit this moment tired and moody.
The ride continues and before you is revealed a garish tunnel of boxes. Cereal aisle. If you squint until your eyes water, the straight lines gently curve and the tunnel begins to undulate. Cartoon faces blur and swim. Boxes go by- boats for the faces. You do the caressing thing as you drift past, leaving your invisible lines. One box is facing shelfward…you look away and pass quickly. Bar codes. Too cryptic. You can’t let your eyes unravel their lines. You need to get out of this tunnel.
Back wall. Butter. Lumps of things in circular tubs. Lid-thumping, patting. It’s all music.
Next stretch of gray. Boring things. Grown up things. Plates and fake spoons and rolls of tin foil that you look at and say, “Pre-hats,” a joke you share with the pointless row of boring things. You take steps, breathe. You stare at your shoes. Steps. Bin of empty bottles: inscrutable. You rattle it, shake the cage, move on.
And you are reality deep in it now: toothpaste. The toothpaste aisle is hallucinatory. You pause at the edge of it, let your eyes acclimate to the eerie blues and silvers and the gem-like glow of alien bottles. It’s too real…possibly a Beyul. You shouldn’t be here. Ghost-white batter in glittery tubes goes unsqueezed out of a misguided sense of decorum. A human, whoa. You whisper to yourself, “Padmasambhava has chosen a caretaker.” You lean in a little too close to check out his name badge: Oliver. Oliver stocks floss. I pass by, possibly running, maybe floating inches above the linoleum. I don’t know anymore. The toothpaste aisle defies most of what we know.
Obstinate back wall.
Hey, liquid sugar tubs. Some of them in thin cans. You press one until it dents. You try to squeeze out the dent, but this just adds two more dents. Sometimes, you’re a monster. Away from the sugar tubs.
Cold things. Spacious row, too bright. You never took your eye shields off. You laugh at the lights. All of the frozen bits are overly-intense to your digits, so you fold them under a palm, press things with your knuckles. You need all of the tactile dregs you can gather, even here, where it’s too much.
Last path: deli. The food morgue. Pink meats. Flesh. Shaved. Displayed. You get surreptitious and let your peripheral vision do the looking. Deli sections are graphic. Still, you peek. The meats go by. Bon voyage, dead relics.
Last, last path, the shortest one of all. Today it’s a teenager. Glasses, freckles. She asks, “Did you find everything you were looking for?”
I glance at my cart…I’m surprised to see things in it. Boxes and cans with ridges and lumps and colors. I stare at my shoes and reply, “Yes. I ran through the toothpaste aisle, though. Oliver had things under control there.”
The ritual, now. I breathe in slowly and hold the breath.
Teenager waves each object like a magic wand. The Aperture Below says, “Boop.” I slide a thin rectangle through a plastic crevasse. The Hidden Onlookers approve.
Air flow. Doors before you (met gently, parted). You walk through. Doors rejoin.
Don’t overthink it.
At home, you place the new stuff into your own miniature version of the grocery store. You sit for awhile, bones steeped in lethargy.
You listen to a window. It chirps and hums like distant traffic.