Friday night is usually when I do my grocery shopping, Modern Philosophers.
I returned to The House on the Hill without incident tonight, but a trip to the supermarket hasn’t always been that simple for me. As is the case with many of my phobias, neuroses, and anxieties, we’ll have to go back to my childhood and my Evil Step Mother to get to the root of this.
When I was a kid, we made weekly trips to King Kullen. My ESM had this terrifying habit of leaving me at the checkout line with a loaded cart, while she disappeared back into the aisles to pick up some item she’d forgotten during our journey through the store.
She always forgot something. Even if she had a list. Even though she led the rest of us to believe she was perfect. Somehow, she never managed to get everything she needed.
For some reason, being left alone with the cart stressed the hell out of me. My palms would sweat, my stomach would churn, and I’d shake as I inched closer to the counter. I’d pray that the shoppers in front of me would be slow in emptying their carts.
I was scared to death that before my ESM returned, all the groceries would bagged and tallied, and I wouldn’t have the money to pay the bill.
I truly believed I’d be led off by heavy handed security guards, who didn’t have an issue with roughing up a young shoplifter. I was certain I’d be taken to court, sentenced, and sent to prison before my Dad had a chance to rescue me.
I have no idea why I thought King Kullen management would prosecute an adorable, geeky kid to the full extent of the law, but I was positive it was going to happen.
My next story has to do with a store in Brooklyn called Meat Village. Every weekend, ESM would send me there ALONE to pick up cold cuts for the week. Yes, she sent me with money, but I was on my own and there was always a long list of deli meats to buy and I never thought the cash I was given would be enough.
Meat Village was this tiny store on the corner of 74th Street and 5th Avenue. The place was claustrophobic. Way too many overweight people, and not nearly enough room to get around all those bellies.
My dilemma at Meat Village was twofold: would I have enough money to pay for all the meats on my list, and would I even be able to get one of the counter guy’s attention to make my purchase?
You see, it was like a lawless, post-apocalyptic world. The deli counter was at the very back of the store. Everyone packed themselves into the tiny area in front of the counter and fought their way forward to place an order. There were no numbers you could take to mark your place in line. No, you just had to elbow your way to the front, and try not to get trampled by fat people with visions of deli meats dancing in their heads.
I was just a short, skinny, shy kid, and this was Brooklyn. No one was going to give me a break. Nobody led me up to the counter and announced that the little angel should get to go first. It was a nightmare!
A lot of times, I’d finally get up to the front, and then I’d just order the meats I liked so I could get the hell out of the fray.
I hoped that if I kept screwing up the order, ESM would stop sending me on solo missions. It never worked, though. She probably just put extra meats on the list to freak me out, knowing full well I wasn’t man enough yet to claim a space in front of the counter and order every item on the list.
Finally, there’s the grocery trauma that surfaced only after my divorce. I had gone to the supermarket every week with the same woman for over a decade. I pushed the cart, she filled it, and she knew to NEVER leave me alone on line.
Suddenly, I was expected to go to the store all by myself. It was so weird and confusing. I wasn’t used to making lists. J always did that. Just like she usually decided what we were going to have for dinner. Now that responsibility fell to me.
I was certain everyone in the store was looking at me with pity. I was sure they’d recognized me as the guy who always came in with the pretty blonde, but was now suddenly alone. And no longer wearing his wedding ring.
It was traumatizing to shop alone. I kept my head down, fought back tears, and prayed I wouldn’t run into J with another guy pushing the cart for her.
What a weirdo, right?
Needless to say, I was in heaven when The Girl Who Owns My Heart would go to the grocery store with me. I was the happiest guy in the place. I was with this total knockout and I wanted everyone to see us together. Sure, she used to ban me from going down certain aisles with her when we first shopped together, but I was okay with that.
Grocery shopping is much more fun when you do it with someone you love. I’m fine doing it alone now, but I do miss having that brown eyed girl with me, especially when she would jump on the cart and glide down the aisles.
My name is Austin, and I have some deep seeded issues with grocery shopping…