Pushing my cart through the supermarket late last night, I thought I saw you standing by the bakery. You were inspecting day-old baguettes, the ones that go half price at midnight, and when you turned I was relieved to see that your face had mended itself somewhere between this world and the next.
It is always a little strange and sad grocery shopping alone at two in the morning but tonight someone has opened the gate that locks the dead in their place and they’re streaming out into ours. A slight chill around my ankles, a dampness on my back, and suddenly the aisles are crowded with deceased shoppers, ghosts with coupons, phantoms with food stamps. Welfare banshees. Go towards the light we told them once, and when the cashier announces a blue light special on aisle 9, blue light special on aisle 9, the ghosts flock to it like moths.
Grady the piano teacher (AIDS, 2004) crouches by the potato chips, comparing saturated fat contents. Alice from chemistry (drowning, 1995) drifts towards the produce section – eternal sixth grader – leaving a trail of wet leaves and river mud on the waxed white linoleum behind her. My grandmother (old age, 2001) passes me on her way to the pharmacy, eyeing the items in my cart with disdain (is the candy necessary, dear?).
There is no room left for the living. I put a last can of soup in my cart and hurry to the check out – I can go another week without lettuce or cheese.
The cashier wants to say something about how strange and sad it all is but he knows the customer is always right even when the customer is dead, so he keeps his eyes down and puts the items you have selected carefully into brown paper bags.
You scan your credit card over and over and over and over but it no longer reads, not in this store, not in this place.
[who is this “you” I’m always talking to? Why did my last two posts both start with the word “somehow”?]