I push my sunglasses higher up the bridge of my nose. Their dark tint hides my eyes, their large size keeps most of the world from bombarding my head.
“Code 3 in Housewares. Code 3 in Housewares.”
The loudspeaker crackles under the pressure of the woman’s obnoxious voice as she shouts her request. From the insistence and sharp hint of agitation, someone must be taking a dump in one of their auto-timer, to-go cup brewing coffee machines. My head pulses with every word she screams into the handset. I fight the urge to cover my ears like a child at a fireworks show.
The store is filled with every kind of person the town has to offer. The aisles are packed with people who have no real agenda this early in the afternoon on a Saturday. Old women pushing their empty carts instead of their walkers just for a fun diversion from the “usual.” Teenage girls pack into the hair dye aisle twirling long locks of blonde and red between their carefully painted fingers. The smack of their gum slams the front of my head like a mallet.
He broke up with me by text message two weeks ago. A year and a half of my life and he gives met he courtesy of a text message. It was something to the tune of: “you’re no fun, I’m out.” I thought he was just going out for a night with the guys. I had finals, for God’s sake! A week went by and he still didn’t answer my phone calls. He’ll be sorry. I’m the best he’ll ever get.
I cut through the dog food aisle, dodging a lady hiding her rat dog under her coat. It pokes its head out and musters a deep growl. I hope it jumps down so I have an excuse to punt it. I could probably clear the Christmas decoration display easily from here.
Last night was a great idea until I woke up this morning. Somewhere between the Yager bombs and marathon beer pong competition, I lost my ability to reason and see straight. Luckily, I had planned ahead. I was wearing jeans and a few layers of shirts in case things began to disappear. At least I wouldn’t end up spread eagle on a curb downtown showing the whole world that I have a thing for underwear with cartoons on it.
A woman with a squirming alien in a bright green blanket bounce-walks in the middle of the main aisle. The opposite side of the aisle is choked with parked baskets and people trying to navigate around a man in camouflage overalls smell-testing women’s deodorant. The moment I see a one-foot clearing to get by this woman, the wrinkled, ugly being opens its mouth. The noise that emanates from it is somewhere between a screech and a scream. It sounds like it is begging for a large boulder to fall from the sky and plant itself on top of them. I pull my hood tight over my ears and grit my teeth. Pain sears through ears and head.
Far enough from the banshee that I’m able to wipe the tears away and focus, I enter the Personal Care department. Standing next to the curling irons gives me a chance to check out the “feminine care” section without seeming obvious. Boxes covered in pink, blue, yellow, and half naked women swathed in fluffy white towels litter the aisle. The box I need is on the bottom, the brand sounding more like the motto for an EMT unit. Looking both ways down the aisle, I take a giant step, grab the box, and walk quickly toward the registers. I tuck the box as far as I can under my arm, trying to hide the name.
The registers are packed with individuals buying enough food and random junk to survive the forthcoming Apocalypse that I must have missed on the news this morning. The self-check aisles serenade me with a brain-crushing beep every time the ladies in front of me win the game of “Where’s Waldo” with the UPC. I press my temples and count the number of items left in their overloaded carts.
As I am telepathically pleading with the self-check attendant to kick the morons with seven million items out of the line, I feel a soft pat on my back. Mouth agape, I turn to face my youth pastor and his wife.
“Hel-LO, Pastor Greg! Hey, Morgan! How are you guys today?”
“Very nice, thanks for asking! We saw you standing here and just couldn’t walk by without speaking. This place is crazy this time of year, isn’t it?”
“Yes. Yes, it is. I have a feeling I’ll be here for a while.”
“More time for you to ponder God’s grace on your life. We haven’t seen you in church lately. Do you not come with your parents anymore?”
“Oh, I’m in college now. Its hard to make it back to town for that 8 am service.”
“Well, honey, we haven’t had an early service this year. You could make it by 11, can’t you?”
“I’m sure I could. I didn’t know!”
“We’ll see you tomorrow, then. Eleven AM sharp!”
“Yes you will.”
Shoot me. As they circle me and begin to pray for my safe return to my house, a day filled with the holy spirit’s blessings, and a safe journey to church in the morning, I am trying to shove the box as deep as I can into the folds of my sweatshirt. During their appeals to God to keep me from the evil temptations that college has to offer, a guy cuts in front of me.
“Well, I have to go! Thanks for the prayers… and stuff… I guess. Bye.”
I push him out of the way and quickly swipe my purchase and hide it deep within a plastic bag. I feed my twenty into the machine as he glowers at me. I snatch my bag, making sure to add an extra swagger to my hips as I walk away. No sense wasting attention. Once I know he is completely absorbed by the task of ringing up his fishing lures, I bolt into the bathroom.
Every inch of the bathroom is wet. A kid is splashing another kid with water and is jabbers senselessly in some weird language. Their mother is yelling at them from some stall deeper in the recesses of the bathroom. The floor is carpeted with toilet paper that I hope is simply dirty from the floor and not actually used. I go to the very last stall in the far rear corner and pull the box out of the loud, white bag.
Peeing on a stick isn’t as easy as it sounds. For starters, girls seem to lack the ease of aiming that guys have. It must have been a guy who sat in the New Product Development meeting going “of course they can hit the stick! They have to have some kind of aim to be able to shove cotton up there!” After peeing on my hand, sleeve, and everything else even remotely close to the rogue stream, I cap it and pull my underwear back up. I leave my pants down to avoid the incriminating stares of anyone who happens to think that I’m just hanging out in the bathroom for the scenery.
Okay, so I was a little lazy to go buy condoms that last week we were together. Besides, he knew I lived in this area most of my life and there isn’t a check-out girl within an hour that I probably haven’t pissed off in some grand gesture or went to high school with. Condoms were his job. And we were going to be forever. It wouldn’t matter if we had an accident, it was just speeding along the process to those vows and that house on the hill that he promised his parents would buy us.
The last thing in the world I want for Christmas is a real-life baby wets-itself. Maybe buying them wouldn’t have been such a bad idea. It would have been a lot better than standing in a grimy bathroom sweating through every layer of clothing I bothered putting on this morning, peeing on my hand, and having to smell whatever is left of the lady’s lunch in the stall next to me. I hope it smelled better going in than it did coming out.
Then again, I guess I could have bought condoms after he left. Somewhere before I decided sleeping with his best friend was the most vile revenge. Or even after his brother. At least maybe the kid would look like him enough that I could still pass it off as his. Who cares? This is all his fault anyway. If he had just come to his senses, I wouldn’t have had to waste all that time sleeping around.
The results screen has one solid pink line.
I throw open the latch, slam the test down on the ground, and cheer loudly raising my arms in the air in the symbolic “V” for victory. I shuffle to the left, shuffle to the right, grab my pants from around my ankles, triumphantly yank them back up to my waist, and exit stage left.
Then I go buy condoms.