Thursday, April 23, 2009

The Adventures of Starfish Woman

I like the supermarket.
The Supermarket is like chicken soup for the soul.
The great escape.
Place of peace and safety if you don’t think too hard about it.
The supermarket is a basket of contradictions.
Sometimes it can be the loneliest place on earth – nothing can affirm this more than shopping for one.
The fluorescent light offers no refuge – its’ showy cold gleam lays everything bare, unashamedly flaunting the goods, in a supermarket there is no thing such as false modesty.
The supermarket does not need ambience
Everything is laid out to appear its most inviting
It would be naïve to think there is not some sort of serious strategy in positioning chocolate bars so close to the check out.
The supermarket veneer is everything a consumer would hope for it to be,
Shelves just high enough to reach for that box of maldon salt
Produce washed and perfect flowing out of barrels of abundance
Everything is in season all the time in the supermarket
Generic music filters through hidden speakers – songs just familiar enough to recognize but not distracting enough to veer from the task at hand
The supermarket is a grand manipulator and I am putty in its hands.
In the supermarket you can be anyone you want
The delicious anonymity of worshipping in the church of convenience
I sashay down the aisles
My shoulders pinned back and my head held high
I walk the catwalk like the next best thing
Confident and carefree I pick up a pack of pads with wings – I imagine myself in white pants running through a field of daisies
Fresh and confident, always dry
I don’t buy the no-name brand ones which are a good deal cheaper, no; today is about the branding, living the highlife and paying with plastic
Smiling models on boxes of hair dye urge me on
Come on, you’re worth it.
I smile, “you guys – you’re just so kind! Well why the hell not! I try to decide between a flaming red or an ashy blonde, my dark hair hangs limp as a dishcloth.
I decide on red and the box model smiles approvingly
Good choice. Just wait until he sees you with hair like that!
I smile like the cat that got the cream ‘It’s for me – I don’t need to impress anybody.
The endormorphines flow like warmed honey with every item
I place in my basket
I imagine myself lithe and sun kissed, my delicate ankles bare in a pair of Black Capri pants,
My blouse is from some overpriced boutique in Venice, cream suddenly looks very good on me, my JP Todd’s are as comfortable as slippers, and I smell like Pure Joy, other women harassed by small children with grubby hands stare as I go by – I smile at them. I smile like I believe it. I smile like I have never known a day’s sorrow in my entire life. They look at me and wish they could be me instead of returning to their dull domestic lives and like the supermarket I con them with my mega watt smile and my designer bag, I convince them in one moment that they’re missing out on the time of their lives – and they buy it…yes, they buy it.
I choose the most perfect red pepper, a bottle of Moet and Chandon I wince at the price but egg myself on – who cares if next week I live on air and water – today I am someone else, someone who drinks French champagne like box wine, who eats antipasto and wild mushroom risotto, fois gras and a reduction of balsamic vinegar.
I move aisle by aisle my hips swinging seductively – I get to the cleaning products and remember that I need a bottle of Handy Andy – I stop myself mid movement – Don’t be ridiculous – Handy Andy? Are you kidding? Women like you don’t clean! Send the maid next week – but I don’t have a maid – you do today – The internal argument is broken by the sound of a man’s voice – I whirl around smiling like the beauty I am – “Yes” I say as if I were to the manner born.
I’m sorry he says – it’s just that I think you dropped this – I look from his kind eyes to his outstretched hands and gasp in horror
There in his pink palm a wad of coupons – stapled together. I’d cut them out of various magazines – it had taken me hours – I had prided myself on being so thrifty and shrewd
You must be mistaken I find myself saying – I don’t use coupons – I tilt my basket in his direction – he looks at the champagne and then he looks at me.
Shit. Shit he’s not buying it- he’s not buying.
There is an awkward moment and then he says I’m sorry, it’s just that one is stuck to your shoe, my mistake, poor sod who lost them, some good savings here, and then he walks away and I feel like the boat has sailed and I consider running after him but I am too far gone…
I look down and in one instant, crash back into sad and sorry reality
I am wearing sheepskin slippers. I am wearing sheepskin slippers and I am mortified.
Ahead of me I catch my reflection in the gleaming glass refrigerators
The figure I draw is less lithe, less tanned, less manicured and refined, less beautiful – my hair is stringy, my shirt is stained, my pants are faded and hang as limp as my hair and again I am wearing sheepskin slippers.
I am nauseous; I gag at my reflection looking back at me against a backdrop of frozen chickens and fish fingers
The lie of my basket hangs heavy in my hands
The reflection waves at me – begging recognition – begging to wake up…
Please tell me this is just some awful dream.
The exit feels like the other side of the world – I need to get out of here.
My breath comes in short sharp gulps – I am hyperventilating
Dizzy with lack of oxygen I stumble towards the fridge doors, grabbing the handle for support I sink down against the smooth cold glass
It is like diving; deep down into aqua blue, bubbles float out of my mouth their rainbow prisms gleaming
Schools of brightly coloured fish fingers swim past leaving trails of their breadcrumb coating with 98% less fat
A decapitated chicken does a tap dance and a string of sausages applaud
The horror and delight I feel mingles like some horrible nightmare and I catch myself laughing hysterically
A frozen trout stares at me with its glassy eyes – its stomach hangs open – gutted and bare – pink flesh peeps through – he smiles at me and swims away
Neon lights begin to flicker – some strobe that will not cease – it is bright – too bright to open my eyes
I think of Heaven
I think of Jesus
“Have you found Jesus?”
I laugh at the familiar joke! I didn’t know he was lost to begin with!
Oh God
Oh God no
Please if you are listening to me do not let me die in the supermarket
I can see the headlines
Accompanying it a picture of me sprawled out – my eyes glassy and vacant – my tongue lolling out of my mouth, my legs spread – a hole in the crotch of my pants – a sheepskin slipper lying a few feet away –
A box of I&J Fish fingers in my hands
Oh my god
I cannot suffer the humiliation.
All at once a voice swims through my reverie penetrating the horrific vision
I am here to help you the voice says
Is it? Is it… James Earl Jones?
Just relax. I am going to get you out of here as soon as possible. You are going to be ok.
I squint in the glare of the light – searching for the face that belongs to the voice – for a fraction of a second I believe that the voice has emanated from the box of fish fingers thawing on my lap –
I lift the box to my ear like a telephone
Hello God – Is that you?
The voice sounds tinny – I can hear the sea as if I’d cupped a shell to my ear – It soothes me, I feel calm
I am floating on a white wave – I ride the crest – I sprawl like a starfish my body a sponge soaking up warmth and light
The flashing pulse of red light draws me in – suddenly voices coming at me from all angles – the familiar sting of a needle shoots into my arm – it smells like…it smells like hospital.
I concentrate
I concentrate on trying to focus
The world in Technicolor brilliance like a bad acid trip is distilled in all its glory
James Earl Jones is not James Earl Jones but a twenty year old with a badge that reads “I AM HERE TO HELP YOU” below the supermarket logo.
He smiles at me
He looks s like an angel – if angels were Goths and had pimples
You’re back he says
Where am I?
He smiles again – he has food stuck between his teeth
More silence
I swim down again
Deep dark depths of amniotic fluid
I am pure
I am unborn
I sound out a few final words to the angel
“Did I pee myself?”