Grocery Shopping Melancholy
I worked in a grocery store for one of my first jobs. I started as a box girl and worked my way through almost every department (including floral, which comes in quite handy). I don’t know if it is because of my past employment history, or in spite of it, but I often find grocery shopping comforting.
But not yesterday.
Yesterday, instead of feeling grown up as I asked for seven pieces of bacon at the meat counter, I felt pathetic. I placed the bacon in my cart, the little kind with two tiered baskets, and made my way to the produce section.
I’ve been having trouble with bananas lately. They seem to be perfect for about ten minutes, between being a pinch too green and covered in brown spots. Buying even three seems too many. The produce guy is stocking the banana display and he smiles at me and moves his cart to the side so that I can take my pick. It’s the first one-on-one interaction I’ve had with an attractive man for a while, and I enjoy it.
The last time I bought bananas, I noticed a sticker affixed directly to the fruit. “Freeze me,” it says. So I do. I arrest the ripening process and put the bananas directly in the freezer, forgetting to take off the peel at first (rectifying the situation later, with effort). The finished product is delicious, but not at all the same as eating a regular banana. I am not able to succeed in freezing a banana, or a moment, in time. It must change, or go to waste.
I select my bunch and begin to count out 14 dates which I plan on stuffing with honey goat cheese and wrapping in the seven slices of bacon I have just purchased. This is still the only recipe from Shauna Niequist’s Bread and Wine that I have tried. As often as I buy dates, I think about her words on how to prepare them: “Slice alongside one side of each date, from the top to the bottom, so you can open it like a tiny book.” As I count out my tiny books from the plastic bulk bin and scoop them into my bag, a young, very attractive woman walks into the produce section and begins chatting with the produce guy with a casual familiarity. She reminds me of the girlfriend of my drummer-crush in middle school: put-together, seemingly effortless, and confident (for all I know, it might have been her). After she leaves, with a parting “tag” on his shoulder, the produce guy turns to another friend (does he work? I think) “We’ve been playing tag for months,” he says. “You’ve got to do something.”
By the time I get to the bread and deli side of the store, I am exhausted by the process. I leave the hummus, the english muffins and the rows of miniature cupcakes and check out. At the register, my checker attempts to make casual conversation. I always tried to do this when I worked at the grocery store. I loved trying to guess what people were making for dinner. “Are you having some people over?” he asks me. I survey the belt and realize that my melancholy is laid bare for everyone to see, and, apparently, it looks like a party.
“No,” I say, “it’s just for me.”
Later, I try to figure out if it was the cheese, the fresh bread, or the salsa that helped him to that conclusion. I still can’t figure it out. While I might have bought the ingredients for Shauna’s dates to cheer myself up, my cart wasn’t very different from any other week.
Once, during an interview with a Nepali family, I discovered that my name means banana in their language, which explained all of the giggles during the introductions. I seem to have two choices, banana-wise. I can buy them one at a time, waiting for that ten-minute window and peeling rapidly to take advantage of it, or I can put them on hold in a freezer bag, awaiting my pleasure, but changing their character. Neither of these options compel me, but they are what I have. Tag, or no tag, you have to do something.
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