supermarket haunt

february 11. 2000

2d color studyI was sick sick sick. But I needed food. There was nothing in my fridge except that which required a microwave, which I did not have. I did not want to descend into the hell of the cafe to eat, the belly of beast, the haven of fried and bland food, all of which must be salted copiously to acquire any flavor, and thus probably driving up my chances of hypertension in my later years.

I had just recorded "Exile in Guyville" from Paul, so I popped that in the player. The drive was short, but the Liz songs were so short that I got through two songs before I arrived at the Cheltenham Shop Rite.

The whole neighborhood, all of Cheltenham, looks bright and overtired. Torn and worn around the edges. I hate the neighborhood with a passion. Everytime I venture out, I find myself comparing Cheltenham unfavorably to the town that I grew up in. I hate being paranoid. I hate having to always watch my back. I hate security cameras everywhere.

But here I was, Cheltenham Shop Rite, walking towards it, and because of my fuzzy and overtired mind, not really giving a fuck what social faux paus I was sure I was committing.

Cheltenham is an almost entirely black neighborhood. I have to mention this because whenever I walk around the place, I am uncomfortably and constantly aware that I am, more often than not, the only white person in the establishment. It feels odd. This is not a racial slur of any kind, but I grew up in an almost entirely white, conservative bourgeois kind of town, and going into this environment never fails to hit me like a ton of bricks. When I'm actually on Campus, at Tyler, it's just like home. Almost everyone at Tyler is white, which is odd when you consider that down at Main Campus, the student population is predominantly minorities. It's only when I leave campus that I'm aware of what Tyler is: a little island of white people in a neighborhood of black people.

I was hell bent on getting some healthy food, some fruits and vegetables that used to be such a big part of my diet. Walked in, waved hello to the cameras, and with a cloud still encircling my head, set about to making myself inconspicuous as I shopped.

Gala apples. My favorites...apples that taste like pears, only these ended up tasting slightly sweetly rotten with an aftertaste of some kind of pesticide. I also picked up some baby carrots, and considered some getting some sharp cheese, but vetoed. I spent a vain search for some hair bleach (the damn roots are growing in again), and then gave up the ghost and got some junky food: cream soda, salt and vinegar pringles that ended up being incredibly weak, and a family pack of twix bars. God help me.

I had thought it would be kind of quiet at the supermarket on a Friday evening, but I was dead wrong. I got in a line, and waited for what I am sure was an ungodly amount of time. This would have bothered me a lot, but I was doped up on all sorts of decongestants and zinc lozenges and god knows what else for the cramps that were currently clawing at my abdomen, so I didn't care. Just apathy. I felt like an idiot everytime I went in there, young white girl surrounded by black people. I was met with either thinly veiled hostility or was completely ignored. Neither of these reactions bothered me too much at this particular time. I stood in line, the wire handle of my basket slowly digging a trench into my left hand, looking at the emaciated model on the cover of GQ and resisting the urge to pick up a Newsweek and leaf through it. My eyes kept wandering back to that model and her torso, I could see each individual rib. I remember all the type on the cover, it was about some actress named Cruz, and it said "Cruz Control" (I love how magazine covers use puns to a ridiculous extreme), and something about how Jennifer Lopez better watch her back. She had a pretty face, an exotic nose...now if we could just fill in those ribs a little I'd be happy.

I'm not trying to comment on the media's exploitation of women here, I suspect it was more the medicine that was addling my brain more than anything. I just kept looking at those ribs, through her skin, just fascinated by the perversion of beauty.

There was a delay, the woman in front of me was having problems getting her WIC check cleared. I waited patiently until it was my turn. The clerk rang up my purchase, I gave him a twenty, change was $6.62. I watched him count out my change, it was clear he was having problems trying to get the correct amount, and it was also clear he was trying to hide this, although not too successfully. Yes, two quarters...a dime, yes, you're almost there...two more pennies...yes! He was courteous, although he bruised my poor Galas.