Feb 1, 2023
Content Warning: Mental illness, Violence
I know I am not supposed to go out on my own but the temptation is too great. The sun is shining and this is a good omen, the sun is light and light is good. Mother is in the kitchen preparing dinner and Father is at work. If I leave now no one will have to know. I will not stay out too long as this is a Punishable Offense. I shiver. Spare the rod and spoil the child. I am not spoiled.
I will go to the grocery store because it makes me feel real and Adult. I suppose I am an adult but Mother says I am not ready. I always listen to Mother. In school the kids used to make fun of me so I stopped going to school. Mother said I am Normal and Good and she never lies.
The walk to the grocery store is simple. When I exit the house I turn left and go straight for four blocks. I stop at every Stop Sign and I look both ways. Mother would be proud. After the four blocks I make a right and see the Piggly Wiggly at the end of the street. I have to cross a busy street. I stop at the Stop Sign and I look both ways and then I close my eyes and run. I stop when I feel the bumps of the sidewalk under my feet and I walk through the dirt landscaping until I am in the parking lot. What an adventure! I have exactly twenty dollars in my pocket and I am ready to face the Real World.
Once inside the store I am confronted by noise and color and bright lights and people. I am prepared for this, I take my headphones from around my neck and put them on. I do not listen to music, but they make the noise quieter. I am going to buy three things. I like the number three, it is a good omen. Mother does not allow me to eat processed foods. She says I am like this because she ate a lot of fast food when she was pregnant and it broke my brain. I figure if my brain is already broken a little treat will not kill me. My body craves sugar and salt. I grab Sour Cream and Onion Lays because I saw an advertisement for them once, as well as Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and Skittles. I want to Taste the Rainbow.
I bring my selections to the checkout and I am greeted by a plain faced woman. I take off my headphones and she smiles at me, asks me how my day is going and all the other small talk pleasantries. I love her face because it is simple, she is easy to look at and easy is beautiful. I tell her this and she thanks me, I pay her and she gives me my change and bags my snacks and then I leave the store. I sit on the curb by a bush to eat and I think about Grocery Store Girl. It is the most wonderful feast I have ever had, I eat quickly and then I go home.
Mother is furious when I return. She is standing in the kitchen with her hands on her hips, lips tightly pressed into a thin line. She reminds me that this is a Punishable Offense and she will have to tell Father. Father has never liked me much. Thinks Mother babies me, thinks I am Too Old to live in the house, I am a Waste of Space. I beg her not to tell him, screaming and crying, tears streaming down my face. She hits me and I fall to the ground. I am afraid I have shown too much emotion. I apologize and go up to my room, it has bare white walls with a cold bed and one pillow. Mother says it is meant to keep me sane. I think it has the opposite effect.
Father comes home for dinner and we eat in silence. Mother decided not to tell him, she believes her coldness is Punishment enough. Dinner is white rice and chicken, no seasoning, and steamed vegetables. Mother is always very proud of her meals. She spends all day in the kitchen cooking, which I do not understand. It should not take all day to make a meal this tasteless. After Tasting the Rainbow, this meal is utterly unappetizing and it turns to mush in my mouth. I think about Grocery Store Girl and she gets me through dinner.
I want to tell Mother about Grocery Store Girl, but I know that would not be wise. Instead I go to bed and dream of her, her kind eyes and soft face and beautiful simplicity. I know I have to see her again, but Mother has been talking about barring my windows like a prison cell. This much is clear: if I leave I can never come back.
In the morning, I eat breakfast with Mother and Father. Mother attempts to start conversation, asking Father what is going on at work and such other matters. Father simply grunts in response, and everything is quiet again. When breakfast is finished, Mother clears the table and Father leaves for work. I wait for Mother to retreat to the kitchen before I excuse myself to begin preparing myself for the Real World, preparing myself for Her. What does one require for the Real World? I grab my backpack and think of something I saw once in a book, Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Physiological Needs: I will pack clothes and nonperishables, bottled water and the little cash I have collected. When Grocery Store Girl and I live together I will have Shelter. Safety Needs: Father keeps a gun under his bed. He taught me how to shoot once, he said I am a Bad Shot. Everything Else: Grocery Store Girl and I will Fall in Love and I will finally be happy.
I sneak out the house and walk to Piggly Wiggly. When I arrive I put my headphones on and search for Her. I spot her at the register, same as before, and wonder when she gets off. I can wait. I wait a long while. Surprisingly no one questions my presence, I walk around ever so often so I look like a Shopper. I arrived at ten in the morning, and at about four in the afternoon I see Grocery Store Girl packing her stuff to leave. Must have had a short shift. I wait for her to leave and follow her at a distance. I do not want her to think I am a Creep. She walks in the opposite direction of Home, towards the Apartments. The walk is short and she ascends the steps three stories, Apartment 33. A good omen! She opens the door and goes inside. She does not lock it.
I ascend the steps and enter Apartment 33. What are you doing in my house? Her voice is slightly shrill, but tolerable. I close the door behind me and urge her to calm down, tell her that we are supposed to Fall in Love, tell her we are perfect. She reaches for her phone and I scream. I tell her to hand it to me, tell her I have a gun but I do not wish to hurt her. She is crying.
Grocery Store Girl gives me the phone and I call Mother. I tell her I did a Bad Thing. She asks where I am and says she will be here soon. I sit on the floor across from Her while she cries. I try to comfort her but it makes things worse, so we just wait for Mother.
Mother takes ten minutes to arrive. She walks to the door and I run to her, she holds me in her arms.Shhhh, it’s all going to be okay. You trust me, don’t you? You know I know what’s best for you. I am caught off guard by her informal speech, she never talks to me this way. She holds me until the Sirens come to take me to a Better Place.