By Sean Dietrich, Sean of the South
The young woman in the supermarket was pushing the buggy lazily through Aisle Five. She was wearing extremely short shorts, flip flops, and she was extraordinarily pregnant. Her hair was piled atop her head, no makeup. She looked maybe 15.
A young man was with her. He, too, was young. He was built like a junior high-schooler, painted in billions of tattoos, wearing work boots.
“Can we get Pop Tarts, Gerald?” she said. “I love Pop Tarts, don’t you like them?”
“I don’t give a [bleep] about Pop Tarts, Nadeen,” Gerald said. “What the [bleep] do I care about Pop Tarts? I’m not wasting our [bleeping] money on Pop Tarts. We have more important stuff to buy.”
Thus it was, she returned the strawberry Pop Tarts to the shelf. And she pushed the buggy, following her young man through the aisles.
“Oh, Gerald, I don’t see what the big deal is, I love them, can’t we buy some?”
“Hell to the no,” said the great poet of our time. “What’choo think I am, made of cash?” He cussed again. “All you do is spend, spend. Ain’t taking you shopping with me no more ‘cause you buy everything. Now push that cart over here, there’s a sale on peanut butter.”
I hate to be nosy, but it’s a gift. So I followed this couple. Whenever they looked in my direction, I pretended to be studying at the ingredients on a Marshmallow Fluff jar label.
The girl absently placed a hand on her belly and said, “Do you think we should name her April, since she’s gonna be born in April?”
“No [bleeping] way,” said the Bard. “We agreed on naming her Meredith, after my mom, don’t you like that name?”
She smiled. “I guess, but it sounds so… So old ladyish.”
“Don’t say that to my mom,” said Gerald. “She’s been depressed about getting old now that she’s 38.”
When they reached the milk aisle, they went through an existential crisis. Milk is one of those things. Used to, there were only two kinds of milk available: Store-brand, and the other kind. Now, there are 1,289 incarnations of supermarket milk. There is ultrafiltered, organic, grass-fed, hormone free, lactose free, reduced fat, skim, whole fat, West Indonesian yak’s milk, etc.
The two children in grown-up bodies stood before a large wall of lactose. She held his hand. The young man was doing mental math.
“I like regular whole milk best,” she said.
“No,” said the young man. “You can’t drink that stuff. Bad for you. All those antibiotics and [bleep]. You need the best. Grass fed, and you need lots of omega threes. We got to keep you healthy.”
“But it’s so expensive. Seven bucks for a half gallon? That’s a lot, Gerald.”
“Would you leave the budget to me? Plus, my boss said he’s gonna give me a raise if I keep doing the late shift. Only the best milk for you.”
The young man placed the most expensive carton of milk into his buggy. And he did this proudly, almost as though he were placing a brick of gold into his basket.
For another 15 minutes I watched them move throughout the store more carefully than your average shoppers. They scrutinized prices on everything, they deliberated, they compared, they agonized, they put many items back.
When they reached the checkout lane, the pregnant girl left the store and waited in the car while the young man tossed items onto the conveyor belt.
He painstakingly counted his goods, and he did more mental arithmetic. It looked like he was making sure he had enough to pay for it all.
When he finished calculations, the young man hurriedly left the checkout lane before the cashier was through ringing him up. He jogged into the aisles like a man on a government mission.
When he returned, the young man was carrying nine boxes of Pop Tarts.