also, a few of you expressed an interest in purchasing the book; it is currently on sale 50% off.
I enter the grocery-store maze decked out in my grandmother’s fur coat and lambskin gloves when everyone else is dressed for spring. I tried to leave the house in shorts but only made it half a block before turning to warmth in defeat. This European-style grocery store with its narrow aisles and chic, miniature shopping carts is known for its cheese, and right away I’m confronted by it: organized by nationality, with imported and domestic varieties stacked one upon the other in bright casings and shiny wrap, the cheese draws a sophisticated crowd who have wine and baguettes in their baskets. Briefly, I wish I could swallow my fear and pick from the plethora; it would make me look less like a bag lady in a ratty old coat and more like an eccentric socialite. If I could pick a stylish wine, I would gain distinction in this store where people not-so-casually eye each others’ purchases.
But I can’t.
I pick up tofu shirataki noodles, vegetable broth, mushrooms, celery, tofu, and an indulgent wooden 1⁄2 lb crate of strawberries, my weekly pantry sufficiently pathetic. Then I cruise foods I will not buy. First I breathe in chocolate in the candy aisle. The selection is ample, and the deep aroma makes me want to cry. I feel a mouthful dissolve on my tongue, and my pulse quickens. I move on to crackers. The caloric content of this road of carbohydrates sends me reeling. I imagine the amount of calories that comprises this market and nearly faint. It must be more than one person needs in a lifetime. In my life, will I eat the contents of a grocery store at least once? How much will I eat? Too much. Despite the throng of customers in this aisle, I sit on the muddy floor, pushing boxes of crackers deep into the shelf with my back. I reach behind and grab a box of Wheat Thins. Before anyone sees, I’ve got it under my coat.
A mother with two children in tow kneels in front of me. ‘Are you OK?’
‘I’m fine. Just dizzy,’ I say.
Another woman has stopped. ‘It must be her heart. Call an ambulance.’
‘No, really, I’m fine.’ I right myself, though I feel wrong, and brush off my bottom. I know for a fact that they mop the floors in this place three times a day, but it’s raining outside and the floor is slightly muddy. At least my coat covers the wet spot.
‘I’m a nurse. Let me take your pulse.’
I cannot allow this. ‘No,’ I say. ‘I’m really, really fine. I forgot to eat breakfast. I have to go now.’
The mother takes a box of graham crackers from a squalling baby’s hands. She opens it, rips open a plasticized tunnel of crackers, and hands me one. ‘Eat this,’ she says.
‘Thanks.’ I take a bite but do not swallow. ‘I’ve got an appointment to go to, thanks again.’
Once out of their view, I spit the cracker into a tissue and line up at the checkout. Please, please let this be quick. I hide the graham cracker under my strawberries in case one of those women sees me not eating it. I watch my produce head down the interminable conveyor belt into the hands of a plump cashier. ‘Soup for supper?’ She’s actually jovial. ‘Right,’ I say. I wonder if she guesses with everybody. It must pass the time.
Birds out of a Disney movie bob on a wire, their songs unbearably loud. I turn the corner and head to Washington Square park where I sit on an icy bench and throw crackers to pigeons. When the box is emptied, I head home. The day is growing darker.