Wednesday was groceries’ day. At some point in the long past, there was a particular reason for him to pick that day—and only that day—for buying his weekly essentials, though he no longer remembered it. Wednesdays just felt right. They had a laxness to them: neither the dread of Mondays nor the chaos of Fridays. They sat right smack in the middle, almost as if balancing the whole workweek on their head, so the world seemed alive, but tame.
Safe. It just felt safe. Not that he had many reasons to expose himself to the world every week, Wednesdays or not. Once every month would suffice, given that he ate very little, and consumed other frivolities even less often. Somewhen in the past, too, he’d changed his schedule for buying groceries only once every month to once every week. As with his choice of the groceries’ day, the exact time of the change eluded him, but the reason was much clearer than ever: «she is so pretty.»
He stood idly at the entry of the market. Time slowed down whenever he saw her. ‘Pretty’ wasn’t the best word. ‘Hot’ was.
That was a perk he hadn’t considered at all when moving to that country—well, not consciously, at least: people there looked much more beautiful than the average—almost astonishingly so—, and girls who would be models elsewhere were usually teachers, drivers, or cashiers in that land. The most average of them looked like models; the better ones, like angels. Competition was so stiff even the cutest gals didn’t think too highly of themselves, and many of them probably even faced a good deal of self-esteem issues, becoming easy (or at least easier) preys for men with just a little bit of balls between their legs.
He wasn’t such a man. In fact, he might was well have been born a girl, so paltry was his pair. He remembered how it took him an Herculian deal of effort to even just look at a woman in the eyes for the first time—and that was with his fucking phychiatrist! His experiences taught him to never again even try and address a lady. Ever. «Just a waste.» He lowered his head and walked in. «Don’t bother them. You’re just a waste.»
Yet still, he couldn’t stop thinking about the pretty girl at the register as he loaded the bags on his cart. He sometimes stopped between the lanes just to have another glance at her, all while making sure he’d never pause for longer than three seconds, more or less. He had become quite an expert at being a lurker without being a creep. He didn’t want to make pretty girls uncomfortable, yes, but he also wasn’t going to deny himself the pleasure of seeing them. «The sight of a pretty woman is a human right,» he sometimes justified to himself.
At first glance, that girl in the counter was polar opposite of one he’d purchased, and not just from the fact that she was, well, actually real. She was slim and very feminine, hardly weighting nine and a half stones, and definitely without a drop of tomboyishness in her whole demeanor. She was an all-around princess, yet she still carried that humbled, honest look of someone who didn’t have all things in life handed in a silver plate—beauty aside, of course.
She looked down-to-earth. Real. Just like him. He loved to imagine how much better the world would be from her point of view. Good parents, great country, strong relationships, calm and peaceful society. How would it feel to have people always smiling when they looked at you? Treating you like a human being? Showing you always the better angels of their nature?
Should feel nice, he sighed. A world less dry, less threatening. A world where he’d be safe anywhere, anyday, not just on Wedsnedays, and definitely not by living at the very edge of the frozen outskirts of Earth.
He calmly placed his items one by one on his cart. Stopping by the frozen goods, he gave one good look at all he’d bought and realized his lifestyle wasn’t all that bad. «I’m not that much a loser,» he smiled, if only briefly. There was not a bit of organic food or spice in sight, yes, but at least he was past the point of consuming only ready-made goods and frozen junk.
Yeah, he still ate like a college student, but at least he’d be a rich college student: there was pasta and rice and beans with expensive sauces and whole pounds of expensive meat coupled with some fancy-ass bottles of juice imported from his native land, of all places, which happened to sell for a pretty penny up there in the Artics. «Heh. Ironic.» He wondered, feeling the weight of the bottles in his hand. «Back there, this thing’d be cheaper than water.» Considering how hard sanitation and plumbling came around, that wasn’t all hyperbole.
There is only so much junk food, after all, one could have before kissing their heart bye-bye. Mostly, though, it was shame: though food did bring him confort, it’d never been to him the end-all, be-all it was for other people. His hatred for growing fat just happened to be much stronger than his pleasure of munching on junk food.
In a way, the things people did to him in his old country did leave a positive side effect on his body—if not on his mind.
He startled himself by throwing a package of meat a little too hard in his cart. The sound of the heavy meat clashing on the metal woke him from those nasty thoughts, only for him to notice that other people were staring at him very intently.
He immediately lowered his head and carried on with his business, rolling fast between the lanes and disappearing from any gaze as quickly as possible.
People could sense the weird and the disease in him. It was obvious for anyone with their minds in the right places: just as beautiful, rich people exhuded the smell of ease and success, he smelled the stench of failure and inadequacy. It wasn’t even that he resented the fact he was made to fail and slumber; it’s just that everything took so long! «Nature could end me now and quick.» He thought, moving along the isles without picking anything. «More merciful, ya know.»
The fact he could have to go for fifty, sixty, maybe seventy years longer in life sometimes made him desperate. Alone in his apartment—his heavenly kingdom—he sometimes screamed to himself, banging his head against the walls, never to be heard. Not that he minded, of course, never being heard. He preferred it that way, that nobody knew of his problems. It was much better than somebody knowing, but not caring. Or worse: somebody knowing… and enjoying it.
He felt the swelling under his eyes and stopped at the middle between two lanes, felling his heart pace and his skin burn, sweat forming on his forehead. There was a slight unease of breath followed by a blurring of his vision. He had to close his eyes and count to ten, twenty… fifty… but the problem didn’t go away as quickly as it used to.
The longer he faced it, the worse it got. The last time he had it this bad… well, it was really, really bad! Back in his old land. In public. It involved slurs and beating. And blood. His blood.
He felt like losing balance, and the image of those shelves toppling on one another like dominoes because of his carelessness burned brightly in his mind. «The manager’ll come. They’ll scream at me.» The swelling and pain got stronger. His hands were trembling, gripping the cart’s handrail like they wanted tear it off.
A voice came by his side. Almost scared the soul out of his body: “you alright, mate?”
He answered just as promptly: “hmm… headache. Big one.”
“Uh.” The stranger gave him a good look and, thankfully, ignored him. Maybe the man saw that he was no good. Maybe he saw he was a foreigner. Or maybe he had feigned normalcy so that the stranger didn’t feel like saying anything else.
Still, it stung a little. Even if it was actually “just” a headache, it would have been nice for the man to ask if he needed anything, or maybe even go the extra mile and offer him some health assistance—like calling a doctor or something. «Nah,» he forged a smile on his face. «I’m good. It’s better this way. This guy made me a favor.» People like him were better off forgotten.
Maybe looking at the beautiful cashier would make him feel better.
It did. At moments like those, he usually didn’t like thinking about women. Brought him back unconfortable memories, you see. It was a useless, anyway, to dream about something he’d never have. That girl, however, made him feel special; she made him feel calm and sweet. It was something ‘bout her beauty, both arousing and delicate, like a lover and a sister, or a goddess who’d turned into mortal just to take care of him.
He didn’t feel too intimidated by her. Was it because she was poor (or at least working class)? Was it because she was young and quiet—an uncommon thing for pretty gals like her—, maybe nerdy or a bookworm, someone even closer to him?
«You should go talk to her.»
That voice. That annoying voice in the back of his head. He shut his eyes and shook his head, trying to physically expel it from within him. «No!» He reaffirmed. He was not to do the same fucking mistake he did… so many years ago.
He turned the cart around and strolled aimlessly throught the market, with nothing else to buy. The calm and ease were gone. He was now just fearful, with his head heavy and aching, his heart picking up pace, the pressure rising as he realized that, romantic or not, he would have to face that girl up-close.
«Come on. You’ve done that already. Many times, even!» He tried smiling and being positive, but was bombarded by a tsunami of vicious thoughts at every attempt. Maybe he shouldn’t leave that place. Maybe he couldn’t. He looked around and tried to imagine himself living in that already-too-familiar store—the same spot he’d been shopping for the past two years and something. «Fuck.» The word exploded in his mind, time and time again: «fuck. Fuck. Fuck.» Like a deathroll inmate, he went to the counter trying his best to not look at the guard.
Don’t disturb her. Don’t you dare ruin her good day and good mood with his presence. Beauty was something too precious to be tainted by his being. It was, in a way, his only way of caring for her: the farther he got from girls like her, or the more invisible he made himself to them, the better.
T’was a nice relationship: he fed on their beauty, they weren’t disturbed by him. Though that girl didn’t know it, she made the world a much better place by just existing and being beautiful—as if her abundance of good blessings somehow trickled down into his empty chalice of love.
«I respect you. I really do.» He thought, growing a hunchback as he put the groceries on the counter. She might have been looking at him. He couldn’t know, of course, not without lifting his head and seeing it for himself. «I could be feeling less stressed by not coming out here so often. But I do.» He raised his head. «All because of you. Beautiful stranger.»
She wasn’t looking at him. Mechanically, like the job had become part of her instincts, she just grabbed the stuff, passed them under the barcode reader, and stashed them on the other side. It was only then that he noticed he’d forgot to hurry up and package the groceries. «Fuck!» Was his first thought. «Hot!» Was his second. These two were his only thoughts, basically: «fuck! Hot! She hot! Fuck!»
Her skin was beyond flawless—freckles included. «They’re like whiskers. Her face is so feline. So… feminine.» Her eyes were aggressively green. Like… «wow!» They were almost two big emeralds dimming every other light in the room.
She barely looked at him directly, and that was nice. She treated him with the casual disinteresst of a tired-ass, bored-out-of-her-mind teenage cashier, one who had to take on those menial jobs just to pay her way through college or something like that.
«Here,» he pondered, «she doesn’t have to worry about college.» He felt another pinch in his heart. Looking around the place, it was easy for him to forget just how clean and tidy everything in that country was, to the point that even an mundane store like that shone like chrome. «Nobody suffers here. It’s like paradise does exist, but it’s meant only for them.»
He felt resentful and a little bit angry, leading him to mutter to himself and—oh!—catch the attention of his girl.
She looked straight at him, a bit startled. “Sorry?” She leaned forward. “Did you say something?”
He staggered. Deer-on-the-headlights look in his eyes. “Nah, nothing.” He said, stammering his way through the words.
“Hmm.” The pretty girl moved the last few itens past the scanner: “four hundred fifty-seven, twenty-two.”
“Uh-uh.” He muttered, swiping his card and getting the hell out of there as soon as his payment came through. There was a brief moment, however, as he was typing his PIN, when he wished she’d recognized him. «I don’t know. I wish she, like, said something.» Maybe asking whether she’d seen him before, maybe commenting on the fact that he’d bought groceries regularly there, same time, same day, every week without fail, or… «I don’t know.» Something. Anything.
The best thing was probably for her to not say anything, of course. Still hurt, though. «Why can’t I do a bloody thing?!» He hit his head with a fist, thrashing the bags on his arms. «You stupid little cunt!»
A car almost ran him over as he crossed the street without looking. When he got to the other side he realized, with great sadness, that he was still alive.
«Fuck.» Feeling his head almost exploding with negativity, he looked back at the store, through the dark, blue-ish windows where he glimpsed his girl, so faintly visible, and then he was calm again. With a long, chill sigh, he turned around and walked slowly back to his place. «This doll can’t take long enough to come.»
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