::self-medication 101

11 09 2010

Get your fucking hands off my cake. Bitch.”

The words came out deliberately, firmly. There was no mistaking the tone for a blurt or a simple case of mistaking my outside voice for my inside. The woman blinked once, then again, then put the cake down gently, taking obvious care not to bend or crinkle the hard plastic shell.

Maybe I should give a little background.

I was standing in the checkout line at my local organic grocery. You know the place: free range everything and signs hanging from the ceiling with slogans in soft green writing about not selling anything animal tested or chemical laden. I had just neatly arranged my items on the conveyor belt, had given my cart a little push to the right so the clerk could pass it down to the bagger. I was stepping forward a little, into that waiting space in between the Co-Op membership forms and the bank card PIN pad, when I noticed her. She had given my Calamatta olive and cracked pepper baguette a bit of a nudge with her almond milk, making room to put it down, and she stopped as she reached back to her cart for more sundries. She eyed the cake for a moment, then she just reached out and picked up. Like it was nothing. Like every social norm on the planet said this was a perfectly acceptable thing to do. She narrowed her gaze as she tried to determine by sight how light and fluffy the cake would be, then she gave it a three-quarter flip and and started reading the ingredients. The cake gave a spoungy little thump against the top of the package.

This, this wound me up. I still don’t understand why, exactly. Granted, it’s presumptuous and more than a little rude—to gaze wantonly at someone’s groceries is one thing; making up little theories about a person and how they live their life based on what they have in the 10 items or less line. But to just reach out pick up a goddamn pound cake that a body spent a good 5 minutes mulling over and considering before finally putting in their cart, well, I was incensed. I gave her a look for another second or two, and I could tell that she had something cooking up in her head that she wanted to say, but either the fear or the lack of wit held her tongue. I turned my back on her and almost didn’t look again.

Honestly, I had almost forgotten the whole thing by the time I was done being next and it was my turn at the cash register. The cashier was smiling at me, which proved to be a distraction. She was a mid-twentyish almost hippie with this sort of auburn hair and just a touch of gold to her skin, and pert little body that, in a vague and slightly disturbing way, reminded me of a young colt sprinting across the open plain. The kind of almost hippie who you could tell by looking at would be made sexually ravenous by both a Howard Zinn lecture or an Ani Difranco concert. The kind of almost hippie who would take down a pepperoni pizza for herself but would never let a burger pass her pouty little mouth. The kind of almost hippie who on the one hand would get pissed off at the thought of being objectified as I was doing at this very moment, and on the other hand turn and ask the question, as more of a demanding affirmation, “Doesn’t my ass look fabulous in these jeans?” The kind of almost hippie who has no body hair below the neck. The kind of almost hippie that I fucking love.

She wore a V-neck tee shirt that her hemp apron failed to fully conceal, and I was trying to get a peek without getting caught.

Like I said, proved to be a distraction. She said something to me as she corralled my olive bread past the beep of the scanner, then the goat cheese, then the organic coffee. I imagined an off-handed sensuality to the way she picked up, scanned, dropped, picked up, scanned, dropped. I was reading way too much into this, some third party in my head let me know. She said something to me, but I didn’t catch it, focused too closely on her fingers and the way they might handle a banana, though I detest bananas and didn’t have any for her to fondle. I marveled at the fact that I was actually fantasizing about her handling of phallic symbols rather than handling my phallus as I started to ask her to repeat herself, when that cake molesting bitch behind me reared her ugly head once more.

“Be careful with that cake,” Bitch cautioned as my lovely corn-fed almost hippie picked it up with one hand, “It looks like it might be fragile.”

“She’s a highly trained professional,” I said through gritted teeth and a tight, warning smile. “I think she knows how to treat angel food.”

My almost hippie was just now becoming aware of the tension in her checkout aisle, chattering away like she’d been with the customer before me. She tried to crack some kind of a joke and ease things a bit, but she fell short. There was an uncomfortable tension between us, all three of us: Hippie, me, Bitch. I steadied myself a moment and then flashed my Winning Smile at her—the one I’d practiced to perfection in front of my bathroom mirror many years ago and had since used successfully at many a job interview, convention, sales meeting, ass chewing and last call. It didn’t come across so smoothly this time, almost feeling my lips trip over my canines.

“I‘m sorry, I didn’t catch that.” I said. My voice cracked like a 14 year old boy. As if by divine providence, I felt a tiny little globule of spit launch itself off the s.

She smiled right back at me. This one, I could tell, wasn’t contrived the way mine was. It was quick and easy and 100% natural. “Can I get your bags?” The words floated past her lips like puffy, perfect, happy clouds riding a gentle breeze through a perfect blue sky. Really.

And then I realized that it was all over. There was nothing I could do to salvage this now—whatever the fuck this was—and get anything more from my lovely little Almost Hippie. I’d done the worst. I’d left my reusable canvas bags at home.

She had to walk away from the register to get some paper bags. “I meant to grab some the other day when I saw they were out,” she said stiltingly as she walked away. Wonderful. Days since she’d needed to cover for someone clearly bent on killing the earth one grocery trip at a time, and it had to be me. Days.

Uncomfortable silence hung over the checkout stand as she quickly packed up my groceries, clearly anxious for this to end. I toyed with the idea of giving it a few days and trying to catch her shift again. With my bags this time. I wondered what purchase would say the right thing about me to get back in her good graces. The organic pale ale with the hemp labels might do the trick It tasted like sawdust and turpintine, but it might do the trick. She bent a little as she put my bag in the cart and I caught a glimpse of cleavage. Probably not worth the trouble, I concluded as I walked out the door.

Back at home, my angel food cake tasted like sweetened cardboard. I ate in silence and contemplated another night alone.