Sunday, November 18, 2012

monologue: apples and cheese

Monologue: Apples and Cheese

I’m walking through the supermarket.  It’s Monday evening and I need some bread, some cheese, maybe a few apples.  I like apples and cheese in the evening with a glass of wine; it calms me, especially on Mondays.  Mondays are the worst.  I know: how stereotypical of me:

“I don’t like Mondays.”  Wah wah wah.  Nobody likes Mondays.  Nobody.  I’m not sure who the fool was who invented them, but I do know that he should be strung up by his balls.  No, better: put him in a prison where it is ALWAYS Monday.  Always a million years until the weekend.  Always fighting your eyes to get them open when all they want is the kind of sleep you had on Sunday.  The week is perpetually just starting, just getting underway.  And you perpetually wish it would hurry up and get over with, get you back to Saturday.

Of course, that’s those of us who can’t stand what we do for a living.  I hear some people actually like their jobs.  But don’t lie to me: even you people who don’t hate work hate Mondays.  You might start out all rah rah rah and whoop de doo, but it can’t last long.  It’s a self-defeating mentality.  It’s Monday, you say, so I can do it all!  But whatever  problems are a part of your life just get intensified because everyone assumes you have a whole week, after all, to deal with them, so why not pile them on?  Another issue to tackle?  Another account to handle?  Another file to clear out?  Why not?  I have a whole week.  I can take on the world.  Sure, I’ll work on some of Joe’s backlog.  Add them to the pile.  It’s Monday; I have forever.  Little Marie’s clarinet concert is Wednesday night?  Of course I’ll get her there; what could stop me?  There’s plenty of time to get straightened out before then.  Plenty of time.

But there never really is.  That’s the problem.  Monday bleeds into Tuesday and suddenly it’s Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday.  And the time you thought you had when the week began simply vanishes.  And you crawl into the weekend broken and exhausted like everyone else, oozing from the slime that you created yourself from your own self-destructive false optimism.  It’s not a pretty picture.

Nothing is ever pretty on Monday.

But it is Monday, just the same, and I’m walking through the supermarket.  I have my freshly baked sourdough baguette and some Jarlsberg cheese and some Granny Smith apples—the only kind worth eating, the kind that is tart and firm and crisp and when you bite them they answer back with a loud snap and your mouth contorts and waters to dilute the sourness and the aftertaste is so clean.  I have my apples and cheese and bread and I’m just trying to get out of here before anything happens, just trying to get home to pet my cat, Muffin, and open a nice Pinot Grigio and sit in front of the TV and eat and drink slowly so I can savor every bite and every drop. 

But nothing is ever simple on a Monday.  And when I get to the checkout line, standing there debating between the regular checkout with its one customer or the express “10 Items or Fewer” lane that already has just about everyone else in the store standing in it, when I am dredging up my mostly forgotten high school math to find some equation to calculate which lane would be faster—if Cashier A scans her one customer’s 214 items at a rate of one every five seconds and Cashier B scans 10 items or fewer at a rate of one item every 45 minutes, thus creating a backlog of people with 10 items or fewer that winds up Aisle 12 and into the freezer section, how many minutes until Cashier B is replaced by Cashier A’s pet beagle, who could probably do a better job—when  I’m staring at the Chunky Monkey Ben and Jerry’s melting in the cart of the woman in front of me and thinking about asking her if she’d like to share it right here, when my Monday gets more complicated.

I see you.

You are one aisle over, near the coffee, exactly where you always are when I don’t want you to be.  I see you standing there contemplating which brand to buy, engaged in an apparently all-consuming interior debate about the relative merits of Folger’s and Maxwell House.  I’ve never known why you do that—you’ve bought Folger’s every time as far as I know—but there you are, picking up one can and then the other, reading the labels you’ve got to have memorized by now, even sniffing them, as if you can smell anything through the tin. 

I can’t be here.  You have not seen me yet but you will, and if you look up it will destroy me.  I step out of line, putting the ever-growing queue of “10 items or fewer” people between us.  I stare at the other checkout, but it’s even closer to the coffee aisle.  For a second I consider just walking out with my bread, cheese and apples, but I can’t do that.  I can’t shoplift.  I can’t do anything like that.  I even give back extra change at places like McDonalds when the cashier makes mistakes.  It’s not that I’m so damn goody goody or anything.  It’s penance I think.  For all the times I did so much worse than keeping money that wasn’t mine or stealing an evening snack.  So I don’t walk out with my food, but I have to leave.  I have to.  Seeing you there unnerves me.  I put down my shopping basket and leave without anything, never looking back at you but knowing anyway that you have indeed seen me.  You must have.  When I am out on the sidewalk, though, I look through the window to the aisle where I saw you and you are no longer there.  I look up every aisle in the store and I don’t see you.  I let my eyes stop on every person in the checkout lines but none of them is you. 

Suddenly I want to find you again.  I’m desperate, frantic.  I run back into the store, up and down each aisle.  I don’t know why I do it but I absolutely have to see you.  I look in produce.  I look in baked goods.  I even try the fish market (though I don’t know why: you have always hated fish).  In the coffee aisle I stop and stare at the Folger’s and Maxwell House, trying to make you appear there, trying to see you holding those cans up to your nose.  But you are not there either.  I start at one end of the store and go up and down each aisle again, this time calling your name as I go.  Other shoppers look at me as if I am insane.  I just keep walking, keep calling.  But you are not there.  You are gone.

My basket is where I left it and they’ve opened two more lanes, so I pick it up, go into one, and pay for my groceries.  Walking home, I rip a piece from the end of the baguette and eat it, allowing its crisp sour crust to dissolve slowly in my mouth.  Why do you always disappear?  Why can’t I just talk to you?  Why does it always frighten me so when I see you there buying the coffee that I remember you drank way too often?  Why can’t I just once see you and walk straight over and say I’m sorry

I’m sorry for the way I treated you.  I’m sorry for the swearing, the lying, the temper tantrums.  I’m sorry for the way I accused you of trying to walk all over me, to use me; I’m sorry for misinterpreting your love for a kind of weakness.  I’m sorry for the hurt it must have caused you, the infinite pain of knowing that someone you love dearly, someone who by every right and obligation should love you back, should hate you so much. 

I’m so very sorry I ever hated you.

There were so many reasons I could have listed then, so many…  But I can’t think of a single one now.  I remember things I did though.  I remember the day I went through your closet and tore huge holes in your favorite sweaters.  I remember burning your ties in the kitchen sink.  I remember throwing things in anger: plates, cups, knick-knacks, one time a tennis trophy, one time a table lamp.  One time the whole table.

I remember too that last day, the day you finally sent me away, the look in your eyes, the emptiness there, the hollowness. You were all out of tears; nothing stained your cheeks. Maybe you cried more later on. I know I did. I did then and I do now, though the light rain that has begun masks my tears as I walk back through familiar streets to sit alone with my apples and cheese and a glass of wine and Muffin, who doesn’t care what kind of coffee we buy.

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