July 12 The Grouch Grocery Shops
Three entries and already I’m getting this blogging thing down. It’s not hard. I don’t have haters like some people. No one comments so no one gets on tangents so no one fights. It’s fine that nobody comments. Who cares about me? I’m nobody. Actually Mom calls me The Grouch when I get in these sour moods. So that’s who I am. But if you’re reading this, feel free to comment. I’ve got metrics for ten countries. I didn’t know people from Baluchistan could read English. I didn’t even know it was a place! Or how to say it. Just say “Hi!” I’ll wave back then feel stupid for waving at a computer.
Mom decided I was leaving too permanent an imprint on the couch so she made me go grocery shopping with her. My brother needed sunglasses because he sat on his. He told Mom to pick whatever—he didn’t care, but we all know he’s picky about style so she said he had to come with us. He grumbled but agreed. I don’t always like having him around but it’s better that he’s with us because he’s 24 so I don’t feel too old to be out with my mom if he’s there too. He also needed shampoo and toothpaste.
At a Huck’s gas station while Mom filled a gallon jug with Diet Coke, my brother picked up a pair of sunglasses and looked in the mirror and decided those. They were black with blue reflective lenses. They were UV400. It said so on a stick so that must be important. These took him ten seconds. But it was buy 1, get 1 free. He spent another half hour on the second pair.
Mom said, “If you can’t decide just let The Grouch get the other pair.”
“Is he going to wear them over his glasses?”
“He can wear them with contacts. Like today.”
I told them I didn’t need sunglasses. Contacts bothered my eyes and made them all red.
Mom ignored me. “Doesn’t he look so handsome in contacts? But it’d look better with his hair spiked or slicked back. It doesn’t always have to be a mess, you know.” She got out her shopping list on the back of an envelope to scrawl hair gel.
“He’s still got a whole bottle from Christmas. It’s not even opened.”
My brother gave me the second pair of sunglasses he picked out. They were too big, but I liked them anyway.
When we got to Dosey Does Grocers at 1, each aisles only had one or two people.
I’m not sure what guys are supposed to do with sunglasses indoors. I put them in a pocket. I walked around the store with my hand holding them. My mom slides hers into her hair but that looks like a headband. I don’t want to do something girly. There were similar sunglasses near the checkout.
I asked Mom for the receipt.
She had given up figuring me out, but my brother asked, “Why?”
I explained someone might think I stole them.
He scowled. “Can’t you just be normal?”
I put the receipt in the other pocket and held onto it too, getting it as crumpled as the Constitution, just in case I had to take it out and show anyone who thought I was shoplifting. No one thought that. Sometimes I’d pull out the sunglasses and look at the lights to see how well they worked. Pretty well!
There were some ladies in the store. Some were my age. And some my age were with their moms. I put on my sunglasses. Maybe I looked dumb wearing them inside but at least I could peek without seeming perverted. Though I guess I kind of was for doing it secretly.
“Take those off,” my brother muttered. He had left his in the car. I should’ve too.
“I like them,” I said. “I’ve never had sunglasses before.” I’d had glasses since second grade and I never wanted to wear those dopey clip-ons. Usually I just wore contacts for school photos.
“I hope everyone thinks you’re just blind instead of a freak.”
We went over to the freezer section that had pizzas and ice cream and meats. Mom is on a diet always but she needs “healthy cheats” like fudge bars and chocolates and daily batches of cookies. Those don’t count against her diets I guess. She’s not fat either. She jogs around the house in her socks. The dog chases her. It must burn off her healthy cheats because she only weighs about a hundred pounds which she says is ten pounds too heavy. She’s a very small woman, five flat on her license but it’s a lie.
We got everything at the back of the store and were headed toward the pharmacy to get the toothpaste. I saw a kid in a hoody buying condoms. Was he embarrassed to do that? I would be. It’s not like buying shampoo or vitamins or other adult items. They’re condoms. And they stock them in the same aisle as toothpaste. That’s how I saw the kid. When we came into the aisle to get my brother’s toothpaste, the kid in the hoody rushed away but I saw them in his stomach pouch. They were Trojan brand. The Maxi pads and tampons were on the back wall. Why not switch those with the toothpaste so that everyone in aisle 3 was embarrassed and less likely to judge each other? Like if you’re a girl getting stuff for your time-of-the-month (cringe!), you’re going to stare at the products you need and ignore anyone getting condomsunless he’s cute and just buying some to be responsible. Then if you’re a guy getting condoms, you’ll stare at the shelves with what you need, ignoring the girls behind you even if they’re cute because you can’t meet a girl while she’s picking out tampons. What would you tell your kids about that romantic meeting? Well, Jeffrey, your mom was choosing between Tampax Pearl and Playtex Sport and I was getting condoms and they didn’t work so nine months later, you were born. That’d be awful. But what’s embarrassing, the leading cause of teen pregnancy I’m sure, is that adults with their kids come in looking for Spongebob toothpaste and they see a teen getting condoms.
Mom left us in that aisle while she filled a prescription for something that a 50-year-old woman needs that 40-year-old women don’t. I asked if she was sick and that’s how she explained it. I didn’t know what it meant. It took a while for her but it took my brother ten seconds to choose his toothpaste so we just milled about. My brother sniffed a bottle of peach-scented shampoo and stuck it in the cart. Mom had left it with us.
I read the toothpaste label and ingredients and directions—they say only one minute, but my mom taught me to go for five and I still got cavities. Then I was kind of looking at the condoms. They were a mystery. So many colors and brands and features and none of it really meant anything to me. But I didn’t want to be caught looking at condoms. My brother wouldn’t care. He’d just groan and ignore me.
But this redhead came down the aisle. She was opening and closing her mouth like she’d just gotten rubber bands on her braces and they needed stretching. The ligatures were pink and green. She had freckles and her hair was always falling in her eyes and she was taller than me.
I put on my sunglasses and pretended to be looking at the toothpaste too. But she kept glancing over at me. I probably looked odd wearing sunglasses so I looked away, but I didn’t want to look at the condoms while she was there.
My brother was leaning against the cart. He always made everything look cool, relaxed, like he was meant to be there.
I tried leaning on the shelf, but the tiny boxes of condoms rattled behind me as they toppled and I got startled so I whirled around and elbowed blueberry-flavored condoms off the shelf. Why were they flavored? I rushed to pick up everything before my brother could snarl that I was a klutz. The redhead helped too. She handed me a box and it felt warm from her radiance. “Here.”
I stared, gaping, and I couldn’t say anything. I was still wearing the sunglasses. She had cleavage.
My brother grabbed me and the boxes from my hands and dragged me to Mom so we could hurry and go. First we had to get some Diet Mountain Thunder (ick!) that we’d forgotten then we went to pay. My mom was in line to check herself out at the 10 items or less register, though we probably had 20 or more.
The redhead was near, too, reading a Men’s Fitness magazine in the next line. Was she here alone? Was she old enough to drive?
My brother had snatched my sunglasses and stuck them in his pocket so I couldn’t even look at her. I faced the rack of Mentos and Skittles and tried to sense if she was looking my way. Apparently she was.
My brother said with no discretion, “She’s eye-fucking you.”
“Your little ginger friend. From when you knocked off all the condoms.”
“I don’t know her,” I said.
“So go get to know her.”
“But Mom’s right there.”
“But I don’t know her. She’ll think I’m weird.”
“Girls like weird.”
“Can I have the sunglasses back? They make me more confident.”
“Then you’ll look crazy. Girls don’t like that.” My brother gave me a push toward her. “It’ll be fine. Just say hi.”
I almost did when Mom asked us, “Are these yours?” She was holding up the condoms. After I’d made a mess, my brother had tossed them into the cart with his toothpaste. Oh god! He must’ve not realized what they were! And now Mom had to touch condoms which weren’t even ours but she probably thought they were and so she probably thought one of us was having sex and it definitely wasn’t me because I spent most of my days at home and there’s no way I’m having sex while my mom’s downstairs jogging in her socks.
“They’re mine,” my brother said casually.
“Okay. The total for your stuff is twelve-something. You can just give me a ten and we’ll call it even.”
He gave her fifteen because he didn’t like owing anyone.
The redhead had paid and gone.
I think I make a bigger deal of things in my head, but I still can’t believe Mom just said “Okay.”
Anyway, remember to say “Hi!” if you read this. The “stats” thing says I have twenty-two views but I don’t know who they are other than my brother that one time. I know you’re out there. Please say “Hi?”
Thanks for reading,
Oscar: (July 12)