We made it to the grocery store. While walking up and down the aisles with Claire I had an uncomfortable but probably inevitable flashback to that time I walked around in a grocery store in California. You remember: that time I gave myself heatstroke after Ziggy left for India.
This isn’t going to be that bad, I told myself. You’re going to figure this out. Neither of you is leaving the country this time.
Or so I hoped, anyway.
“Oh, I haven’t seen these in a million years.” Claire had found something, some kind of cookies, maybe? She looked like she was about to put the package back.
“Get them,” I said.
“Claire. Anything that you’d enjoy eating you should get. Anything that’ll spark your appetite is good. The doctor said if you don’t eat, you can’t fight.” I didn’t use the word “cancer” aloud in the store. I knew it would freak some people out–or at least Claire would be worried that it would.
“Did he say that?”
“He did. This is the one time in life you shouldn’t be cutting calories.”
“Oh. Well.” She got more enthusiastic at that point. I just pushed the cart and thought about Ziggy while she filled it up with things. I made sure some packets of ramen and macaroni and cheese went in. I knew I could live on those if necessary.
I found myself thinking about shopping with Jonathan. I hadn’t realized it but a kind of vestige of a checklist was in my head from those days: pasta, sauce, meat. Lettuce, tomato, cheese. Steak, potato, spinach. Yogurt, butter, bread.
We bought most of those things, I think. I was in a bit of a fog.
Do you remember back when grocery stores didn’t take credit cards? I don’t remember now if this one did or not, but maybe not.
One thing I do remember buying is a bucket of fried chicken in the meat department. Hot fried chicken. I was fairly ravenous by then despite being pretty out of it, and Claire was, too.
We sat in the car eating it with our hands and feeling not the slightest bit bad about it. I think she enjoyed it. I didn’t have to talk her into it or convince her it was okay or anything. That was pretty amazing, actually. Like I had to stop and think who is this woman and what did you do with my mother? There would probably be a backlash later but right then all I could think was that I was being a good influence on her.
We pulled up to the bungalow in the mid-afternoon with our packed car and set about moving in. Claire declared herself exhausted and said she was going to lie down, but then she made a dozen or so trips to bring all the groceries and some of the lighter bags in. It really didn’t take that long to get the car unloaded. I only made a few trips more than she did and when I came in for the last time she was just finished putting the groceries away.
“That was quick,” I said, as she stacked the folded paper bags on the counter.
“It’s quick and easy to put groceries away when the fridge is clean and empty,” she remarked. And then she went to lie down like she had planned.
So, belly full, mother settled–time for me to make some calls.
That was when I discovered the phone was dead. No dial tone, no nothing. It hadn’t occurred to me the phone wouldn’t work. I had been counting on being able to make calling card and collect calls. I couldn’t tell if it was the phone itself or the phone line or what. Crap.
So, I had my head up my ass, but at least it wasn’t so far up there that I couldn’t tell that I had my head up my ass, you know?
I knew I had my head up my ass because when I realized that the phone at the bungalow didn’t work, the thing I felt the worst about–and which I obsessed over a little bit–was that I’d bragged to Carynne on her answering machine that I had taken care of something on my own. It really stung, though. When was the last time I was that mortified? It was an awful feeling and I could not stop thinking about it, what a fool I made of myself, what an ass I was.
I was more bothered about that than I was over the fact itself that we didn’t have a phone. I resolved to go out to the payphone at the gas station on the highway and call Carynne. Later. After a nap and probably after dinner, when I hoped I’d be more ready to admit how stupid I’d been.
(Here’s another New England band who fell through the cracks, despite this song hitting the charts. Miracle Legion should have been bigger than they were. -d)