The grocery store seems to be the only place where one can feel completely alone, yet completely free at the same time.
I look at the boy, my age, carrying a bowl of poke in one hand and a 7-Up in the other. Two hands; two items. His skateboard is tucked under an arm like an afterthought. If he is a boy, I am undoubtedly a girl.
I look down into my basket, hoping to see something more respectable, anything that doesn’t scream, “I AM SINGLE AND POOR AND I AM GOING TO GO EAT THIS RAW FISH AND DRINK THIS 7-UP IN FRONT OF THE TV PLAYING VIDEO GAMES ALL NIGHT.” I see a gallon of milk, three apples, and a carton of eggs. I am no better. I am single, I am poor. These are the only items that ever seem to need refilling in my lonely, clean kitchen. It’s a big day when my cart holds slick chicken breasts, a rain stick of spaghetti noodles, or an icy bag of broccoli. It’s sad how big those days are.
Today I wheel toward the check-out line, mulling over the boy and his purchase. How amazing. To go into Foodland every single day maybe, just to buy that night’s dinner. Tomorrow, maybe he’ll go with bagel bites and a water. I could see that. The point is, it’s beautiful—to be careless, to be selfish.
I won’t always have this kind of choice (well, maybe I will, but most likely and hopefully no). There will be a day when grocery shopping means thinking of someone else’s wants, needs, and allergies ha! One day, cooking won’t mean leftovers for tomorrow’s lunch. Maybe I won’t be able to avoid meatloaf, sauerkraut, or olives. Maybe I won’t be able to add mushrooms and tomatoes to every single dish I create. The truth is, it’s nice, cooking for someone—seeing a familiar smile after that first bite, feeling mischievous arms around your hips as you stir.
There will be a day in which my grocery cart may in fact hold another human being. Scary thought, makes me cringe currently. But it’s true.
However, at the moment, I am incredibly, undeniably free. If I wanted, for a month straight I could live off the year-old Ramen and oatmeal packages that are cowering in the corner of my pantry. This is a time in my life that I should soak up and photograph, rejoice in its liberty.
And yet…I see the family in front of me, their basket overflowing with oddities I’ve never given a glance (diapers, dinosaur shaped macaroni, formula). I see their teeth, their glow, their hands squeezing. I could reach out and touch the happiness if I wanted.
I can’t help but wonder: is bliss inversely related to the emptiness of a grocery cart?
I look again at my milk, sweating onto the green plastic bottom of my basket. Perhaps.
Then the baby starts wailing, simultaneously causing 20+ magazines to crash to the tiled floor with one sweep of her miniature leg. I head to the Express Checkout, biting my lip to keep from laughing in relief. Perhaps not.