Diet Coke - 9/24/16

Just about three years ago — while I was still living my life as a self-loathing “he”, yanking the first drafts of Infinite out of this body — I spent a lonely Saturday night with myself and the brands I’ve been trained to crave.

In order to acquire them, I found myself at the local CVS/Phramacy, making depersonalized observations and fancying myself quite clever. I still remember much of that night, including my pride for having written my cleverness down.

When I found myself revisiting the saga, I realized I wanted to share it. So I did a quick proofread and resurrected the Bizzartifacts blog. Here’s hoping the sharing helps with healing.

DIET COKE

An Ordinary Night: Just a quick Car in Park, Headphones in Phone, Wallet Keys Phone Wallet in Pocket, and He’s in CVS. He makes a beeline for the back because he knows that is where the Diet Coke resides, and he has come for Diet Coke. He chooses the Back Refrigerator instead of the one in the Checkout Area, as always; he does this because he hopes to convince the Tellers that he has real Shopping to do, or perhaps that he does not know what he wants at all.

An Ordinary Night: He reaches the Back Refrigerator and smiles at a Fellow Patron, which she briefly returns before resuming the idle muttering she has been undertaking since before their eyes met. His eyes immediately find the Diet Coke, and his ears immediately find her words. He picks them out of the air involuntarily and parses the jumble into something resembling the following sentence: “gotta take all these up to the fucking front?”

An Ordinary Night, he presumes: Cradled in her arms, four tall cans of flavored iced tea – Snapple and AriZona, he couldn’t help but notice. Clutched tight in her right hand: A plastic bottle of either vodka or rum – she holds the logo tightly to her side, concealing the brand from his involuntarily inquisitive eyes.

An Ordinary Night: He hurries past her, muttering “Sorry to hear that” to clumsily hide his shamed at having peered so curiously – and, true, unnoticeably – into the life of another. Behind him, the Back Refrigerator Door closes. The mumbling continues at a constant volume, and the rising suspicion that the Fellow Patron had interpreted his smile as an invitation to converse that he certainly did not intend to convey. The whole point of the Back Refrigerator was to avoid people, after all.

An Ordinary Night: He turns around. She says “I didn’t know I’d have to take all these to the fucking front” and smiles, expecting a smile or chuckle in return. He gives her both and asks “Do you want help?” She shakes her head – “No” – and he thinks she’s probably had the same conversation many times in her life. He continues walking until he hears the unmistakable clattering and “fuck” of a dropped can of Snapple. When he turns around to pick it up for his Fellow Patron, he notices her stumbling. When he hands the can back to her, she says “Thankyou.”

An Ordinary Night: Now the Checkout Area – totally empty when he arrived – bustles with activity. More people to look at him. Look through him. Need to buy more, to convince them he belongs there. Soft Baked Montauk Cookies and Flavor Blasted Goldfish (both by Pepperidge Farm, which is probably but not definitely a coincidence). Everyone has a vice or two. These goods and or services provided by CVS are his, or at least among them.

An Unusual Moment: He notices one Fellow Patron – a woman, Black, in her late twenties and a coat – flirtatiously touches the shoulder of one Employee – a man, Hispanic, older and uninterested – while calling to another Patron – a man, Black, around her age and pushing a cart. The three discuss batteries for longer than necessary, as batteries are readily available at the Battery Station a mere ten feet away; when Patron #3 points this out to Patron #2, she scoffs at him and follows the Employee to the Cash Register. He stands in a different line behind Patron #1 - who holds onto the Checkout Counter to keep her balance - while Patron #3 continues to scan the Battery Station.

An Ordinary Night? He notices that his Fellow Patron says “thankyou so much” an awful lot, at the tiniest kindnesses, this time for a divider placed by Patron #4 on the Checkout Counter between their respective purchases. For her, any person who doesn’t say a word about it is a hero, and they deserve praise. She places her items on the Counter and turns around to explain to her unwilling conversation partner: “I didn’t know they were on sale, and I had to carry them all the way from the back.”

An Ordinary Night: Bobbi Rae stands behind the Register and scans the cans. She gets to the vodka/rum – still face-down, he is frustrated to see – and takes it in her hand. He looks at his Fellow Patron, then at Bobbi Rae. A moment passes, maybe even two, as Bobbi Rae considers her words. Finally, she speaks: “Are you of age?” Patron #1 heaves a huge sigh of relief and gushes “you’re the best, you just made my night,” a mantra she will repeat four more times while Bobbi Rae completes the transaction: Remove Security Cap from the Brandless Alcohol, Scan Alcohol, Bag Alcohol. The other Employee gets his attention: “I can help you over here.” He leaves his Fellow Patron behind.

An Ordinary Night: The weirdness of the night hits him, and he looks to his left just in time to watch his Fellow Patron leave while he hears the Employee say to someone “I’m just gonna help him real quick.” He looks to his right and sees Patron #3, still with the cart, standing alone, looking confused. Batteries are complicated. He looks away from Patron #3 and gives the Employee his CVS ExtraCare Phone Number and Wells Fargo Visa Debit Card. He takes his food and his drink and his huge receipt with ExtraCare Bucks he’ll never use and walks out the door. To his right, he sees his Fellow Patron, walking out of the parking lot and onto the sidewalk.

That Night: He leaned on a telephone pole and watched his Fellow Patron walk into the distance. He got into his car and drove away. He didn’t tell Bobbi Rae.