There are a lot of times I don’t mind being single. In fact, there are long weeks where it is probably for the best.
I don’t mind doing things like going to the movie theater alone. I kick my feet up, and if anyone gives me a look, I flash a polite smile. Then I watch the movie.
I can go out to dinner alone. If anyone approaches with “excuse me, are you using this chair?” I’m like “no, buddy, go ahead and take it. Take all three of the chairs if you want to.”
Can I get drinks alone? Um, are you pulling my leg, Mahoney? I’m a writer, it was part of the curriculum.
There are other times it is more of a coin toss. Nights, yeah, that can be lonely. There’s no better feeling for me than a woman curled up next me with her head on my chest, sleeping peacefully, hair spilling over me. Other nights I’m up so late or fall into such fevered nightmares that it’s probably best I not inconvenience the lady.
I’ve had moments where I’m the third or fifth or even seventh or (God help us all!) ninth wheel. I’ve hissed out through gritted teeth “my don’t all you couples look marvelous.” But like I said, those come and go. It depends on my mood or maybe how much vitamin C is in my system.
But there is one place where there is no refuge for my lonely heart, and that is the grocery store. 18 aisles of long loneliness. It doesn’t matter if it is busy or not or what time of day or what day of week—crushing loneliness again and again and again.
How can a single man find the strength to turn on 7, the cereal aisle, and travel down it while a Muzak version of “Hooked on a Feeling” floats softly from the loudspeakers?
Captain Crunch, Shredded Wheat, Simple Living, Life, Oatmeal Squares, Pops, Raisin Bran, Froot Loops, Honey Smacks, Corn Flakes, Toasted Rice, Special K, Smorz, Rice Crispies, Apple Jacks, Crunchy Nut, Frosted Flakes, Mini- Wheats, All-Bran, Fiber Plus, Cracklin’ Oat Bran, Cheerios, Cinnamon Toast Crunch, Raisin Nut Bran, Oatmeal Crisp, Lucky Charms, Cocoa Puffs, Total, Wheaties, Trix, Chex, Kix, Golden Grahams, Cookie Crisp, Golden Crisp, Honey Combs, Oats and More, Honey Bunches of Oats, Fruity Pebbles, Cocoa Pebbles, Grape Nuts, Nutty Nuggets, Go Lean, Weetabix, and a whole many more organics, granolas, generics, and oatmeals.
It is too overwhelming without a strong woman by my side, so I decide I’ll eat toast instead.
In the frozen food section I notice a special deal—4 Tombstone pizzas for eleven dollars.
“This is a good deal,” I think. There is no one to ask. “Wait a minute…is it a good deal? Or is it a pyramid scheme?”
“I thought you said you weren’t eating pizza anymore, anyway. You know, because of your diet?”
Ah! Ah ha ha ha ha! There we go! The hallucination of my imaginary girlfriend, manifesting near the frozen pizza section.
“Right you are, my dear,” I think. I can communicate with my imaginary girlfriend telepathically. I try to concentrate and imagine what she looks like…tall, maybe. No, maybe she’s short. No, tallish. Glasses, perhaps. I don’t know. Tattoos yeah, real bad ass. Real bright smile. Real big laugh. Big ol’ booty.
Now I’m wandering along under the flourescent lights, imagining I’m telling her about work last night, how we made Bananas Foster and then we all got try it, how I should try to making it at home. Hey, I could even make it tonight! We just need to get bananas, ice cream, rum, brown sugar, and cinnamon.
My imaginary girlfriend is way into it. She’s way into me, in general. We pass a fat mom in sweatpants pushing a shopping cart full of screaming kids. We look at each other and roll our eyes and smile.
As I walk down the aisles, I wonder what types of things she likes to eat. Jell-O? Jellybeans? Which is her favorite can of soup? Olives? Turnips? Maybe she’s a vegetarian? Cauliflower? Carrots? Carrots, yeah, I hope so. I’m trying to grow some this summer. Pickles? Yuuuuuuuuuck, dude. That’s the only thing I won’t eat.
After a talk on how to do up some potatoes (she’s saying mashed, I say baked) I find myself at the check out, 15 items or less. The National Enquirer says that Jennifer Aniston has collapsed. “She never believed Brad would marry Angelina,” it says. I turn to try to say something witty about this, but I look into my shopping basket and the illusion is shattered.
This Keyser Söze of a girlfriend is now mere phantom photons. The evidence I am alone is there in the basket: some disposable razors, a handful of items meant to feed one person dinner (one chicken breast, one potato) and breakfast (bread, bananas) and that is it because he doesn’t think beyond that. One roll of toilet paper, a pack of gum.
There are no clementines. No oolong tea. No Nutella. No grapes to feed Cleopatra.
And not much left for me this night except a long, melancholy walk home, a proletarian dinner, an evening without flourish.