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My basket bumped into one of the slanted display stands. A flabby green dildo wobbled, wobbled, then threw itself at my blue and yellow vintage sneakers like a never-been-fondled fat baby. The rounded tip smashing into the ground with a skin-softening splat splat—splat . . . Oopsy daisy. I shrugged and reached down for the bruised, the totally bent vegetable shaft. Carefully placed it back on top of the precarious zucchini pyramid . . . After wasting another frustrating minute searching for the opening to one of those stupid plastic tubes I gave up and just tossed a few bareback cucumbers into my shopping basket, hiss-a-hissing under my breath as I glided away from the vegetable stands and fruit bins. Away from the gift-wrapped flower bouquets . . . Ugh, what a huge rip-off!—hissing and grabbing a box of crunchy granola clusters—I mean organic food is great and all. Like really great. But it’s still way too expensive and the whole thing is obviously just a discriminatory pricing strategy meant to keep the fast-food poor from ever eating steroid-free strawberries. Obviously . . . I filled my shopping basket with packets and packets of absurdly amazing goji berries. Because even though I like definitely didn’t wanna spend too much money, life was definitely way too short not to. Definitely. Plus it like wasn’t my fault that everything in here was so ridiculously edible. So delicious . . . I picked up a bottle of kombucha tea. I waltzed my really long legs down the artisan bread aisle. Ruffled my frizzy black bangs through the sourdough loaves, through the whole-wheat tortillas. And because I was definitely trying my very best to leave all my worries behind me I tore open a package of gluten-free hamburger buns and started throwing them over my shoulder bun by bun, dollar by dollar. I giggled and swiveled my broken glasses from side to side. No one in sight I lowered my yellowwhite teeth and gnawed on a cinnamon raisin baguette. I gnawed and thought about all my superstar goals in life. I gnawed and thought really hard about what would happen to the earth when the sun had like totally burned up its hydrogen core and half squeezed, half bloated itself up into a hungry red giant. I gnawed and—but then my smartphone vibrated and a partially chewed nugget went projectile-vomiting out of my coughing, my totally heaving mouth. What now? I dropped my heavy basket down on the glossy floor, reached into my canvas tote bag and read through Precious’s new text message. Apparently she’d just remembered something that we like desperately needed and desperately needed right now! I sighed and glanced down at my shopping basket, mentally checking off her requests—onions, red peppers, cucumbers, scallions, a loaf of walnut bread (Precious’s favorite), quinoa, couscous, and now—balsamic vinegar. Really? Balsamic Vinegar? I definitely didn’t know we were out of vinegar. Really? No vinegar? But how? Why? No vinegar? Really? . . . I sat down in the middle of the aisle and picked my supercute but kind of puffy button nose. I sat down and tried my very best to, number one, remember when-oh-when we used all the balsamic vinegar, and, number two or three, by methodically studying the stainlike hieroglyphics on the ceiling, I tried my very best to pinpoint exactly where-oh-where in the grocery store the vinegar might definitely be hiding out at . . . Eureka! I pulled out a yellowgreen booger and was right about to pump-a-pump my extra-small fist when a shopping cart brutally rammed into my shoulder and knocked my very small but very special victory aside . . . I pushed myself up to my knees, my blacks tights totally ripping, totally ripping again. I scowled at the cart brushing past me on two or three working wheels—my mongoose eyes spying ten kegs of Aztec beer, forty bags of crispy tortilla chips, who knows how many guacamole buckets and sour cream jugs, pico de gallo septic tanks and condom cartons, chewing gum and Vaseline, a bawling baby and roughly a hundred or so bottles of Moët & Chandon champagne. Looks like someone’s definitely throwing a really awesome party tonight, I growled, rolling to my feet and tippy-toeing after the squeaky shopping cart and its thirtysomething drivers. Ugh, no fair! Why can’t I go to a party? . . . I creep-a-creeped after the beaming parents. Followed them down the frozen-food aisle. Followed them deep into the dairy section. Trying my very best to stay one stalker’s step behind the squeaky cart, I watched the hunky husband reach into the refrigerated shelves and scoop up a tub of cream cheese, then a margarine ingot, his pear-faced wife crossing the non-fat items off her neon-pink sticky note with a smile and a peck on her husband’s well-behaved cheek. I licked my chapped lips. I followed the really happy family until I like totally lost them at the butcher’s booth—the good-time parents vanishing out of my life somewhere between the rib eye and the skirt steak. Somewhere between the ground meat and the marinated pork chops. But luckily by now I definitely didn’t care. The thrill was totally gone, totally gone, totally gone. Plus my hangover was flaring up again, and this shinier than shiny lump on my forehead just wouldn’t stop pulsing with pain with pain with pain. I winced and got back to my shopping. I shopped and tried my very best not to think about how much I’d spent last night. Tried my very best not to think about how much popcorn I’d crammed into my extra-small core. And I definitely tried my very best not to think about the smirking janitor who’d caught me sleeping in the theater this morning with my hand up my dress . . . I grabbed a crate of albacore tuna and groaned. Because I mean I’d been at the Comfort Station all day, all week (well except for my diarrhea day), and now, on a Saturday night, instead of doing something deliciously fun with a bunch of deliciously fun people, I was like totally stuck cooking a boringly healthy dinner with Precious, and maybe, just maybe, we’d stream a movie with a bottle of wine, or else get high and play a game of scrabble, but that was like totally it for the night. That was like totally it for my twenties . . . I lifted a soy sauce cistern and groaned. Because why-oh-why couldn’t my life have like a lot more action or something? Why was it just so—so revoltingly lame? I strained my teeny-weeny neck, reached for the paper trunks and grumbled. Oh if only I had like a sister or a brother or someone I could call right about now and vent to. Oh if only I knew where all my college playmates were hiding out at . . . Free samples, yay! I dunked my dirty fingers and picked out the largest blue corn chip I could possibly find. I dipped. I double dipped and twirled my heavy shopping basket down the aisle, creamy spinach on my tongue, sinister snickers barking up my throat. Tee-hee, tee-hee, try to catch me you if you can, you salsa-loving bastards . . . The stocked shelves, the barcodes and pink noise and me . . . Bingo. Got ya. I wiped my fingers on my favorite sweater and grabbed five bottles of balsamic vinegar. Because that’ll definitely show her not to use all the vinegar without asking me or telling me or nothing! . . . I wandered into the beer department. I rapped my Twizzler nails on all the really cute bottles and mused. Because maybe I just needed to get out of this city or something. Maybe I just needed a change of scene. Of pace. Because I mean where was this whole thing going anyway? Where was my life going? . . . I grabbed a cask of Scotch ale, slowed down my shopping, turned a corner, and watched a stout older woman (I was guessing mid-fifties) wag her really wide hips in front of me, the ugly florescent light filtering through the purplegreen wine bottles onto her plumlike purse, her plumper than plump fanny swinging back and forth, back and forth . . . I stared and cringed. Because would I have a saggy badonkadonk like that someday? . . . A rug rat’s step behind this curvy matriarch, wearing some kind of leather diaper, a longhaired, a nose-pierced, a seventeen-year old twink was holding up for his owner a bottle of South African Chardonnay (2009), his cherub-blue eyes begging for approval and cosmic reassurance. But no. Definitely not. The dominatrix just shook her gray-streaked cougar mane and pointed down at a Pinot Noir, Côte de Nuits (2005). Because that’s the one, the right one. Totally crying, totally asking for a spanking, the rent boy replaced his newbish choice and with a pair of sad hands pulled the Pinot Noir off the top shelf, all the blue washed from his eyes, his hairless testicles sucked all the way up into his submissive stomach. Sucked all the way up there, forever. And ever . . . I pushed back my glasses and watched the BDSM thespians mosey on toward the French cheeses and Kalamata olives, toward the whips and handcuffs, the pine nuts and roasted almonds. I thought about following but didn’t. Maybe next time. Maybe never . . . I picked out a barrel of Pinot Grigio. I bit my lower lip and chided myself for not calling my really Polish, really successful parents back. Because they were probably worried about me. Plus I hadn’t seen them in like forever and I could tell by their voicemails (by their screams) that they were like obviously still mad at me for not going home for Thanksgiving. Even though it definitely wasn’t my fault! There was just way too much to do at the gallery. There was just way too much stress going round and round these days. I like seriously hadn’t had time to even think about going back to the suburbs. And it wasn’t that big of a deal anyway. I mean, I was obviously going home for Hanukkah. Wasn’t that enough? . . . I grabbed a case of gin and sighed. Because at least the Xanax was definitely helping. It really did make everything smoother. Softer. It like totally helped get rid of all those absurdly, those ridiculously annoying existential pinpricks. I grabbed a case of lime juice and sighed. Because I definitely should have taken Professor Amís’s philosophy of pharma class. It like really was fascinating how the Xanax and Prozax just made everything flow and flow and flow . . . I snatched a sack of pistachios and smiled. Because maybe Precious didn’t even care that I was borrowing her medicine collection. Maybe no one cared about anything. Maybe I was the only one in the world who like actually cared and maybe I definitely shouldn’t! . . . Either way though, I was definitely planning on paying her back soon. Like real soon . . . Giddy as a teddy bear I crawled down my favorite aisle (the candy aisle, obviously!), and rubbed my lips on all the tantalizing wrappers— my glasses titled up at the tasty treats, my bloated button nose sniffing the high-fructose shelves, the yummy-yummy honey dangling right up there at the tip of my itsy-bitsy tongue . . . I jumped and yanked a bar of dark chocolate off the top shelf—77% cacao, complex notes of blackberry and currant. I jumped and brought down two or three family-size rolls of Smarties. I could already feel the delicious cavities forming on my tiny teeth. I bent my knees for another jump, my black tights like totally ripping, totally ripping again! But I definitely didn’t care this time. Definitely not. I took a deep breath. I tensed my quads. I—but then my bastard smartphone vibrated away my candy-capped mood. Ugh, what did that bitch want now? . . . Mushrooms. Apparently we needed shitake mushrooms. And apparently we needed them right now. I sat down in the middle of the aisle and looked up at the ceiling, the butterfly stains reminding me of all those Rorschach tests I’d seen on TV who knows how many times. I sighed. Because I really didn’t feel like backtracking all the way back to the boring vegetable aisle. I was seriously against backtracking. Like on principle. Plus, I realized, slightly annoyed, slightly pissed off, slightly frothing at the mouth—I never ever ever ask Precious to pay me back and she’s always the one who picks out when and why and what we’re going to eat and I should like definitely start asking her to pay me back with like tons and tons of interest! . . . I rolled to my feet and grabbed an oatmeal raisin coffer. With a goodbye kiss I turned my back on all the mysterious chocolates and lovable sweets. I turned my back and tried my very best not to cry, not to faint, not to die . . . Armani jeans tucked tight into low-top skateboard sneakers a pair of matching bros came stomping up the aisle toward me, wavy brown hair gelled back, smartphones held up to their ears, black dinner jackets slung over their shoulders, designer T-shirts winking at me like stop-and-go traffic lights—green shirt, red shirt, green shirt, red shirt. They were definitely giving off a West Coast techie kind of vibe. I was guessing either the Bay Area or Seattle. Possibly Portland. One of those places. But I definitely couldn’t tell if they were gay or not and their groceries definitely didn’t help. It could go either way. My crow eyes counting off two or three bottles of rum, orange juice, cranberry juice, baby back ribs, fried chicken, grapefruit, tangerines and way too much beef jerky. Oh it could definitely go either way. But gay or not they had like definitely spotted me and were staring hard at my face and chest and really long legs. At my heavy shopping basket. And I could like totally tell what they were thinking. They were thinking that I like obviously needed to go out and get laid. They were thinking what a pity, what a pity—what an unbelievable pity . . . With a self-conscious growl I lowered my supercute head and stared at my vintage sneakers, and even though I like definitely hated myself for it, I definitely couldn’t help blushing as I shimmied my really long legs between them. As they went to go do whatever West Coast techies do on a Saturday night in the city, and I went to go take care of Precious’s stupid shitake mushroom request. I squeezed my shopping basket, my extra-small knuckles cracking with rage . . . I poured a pound of pepper into my basket and groaned. Because like all I wanted to know was why a doublecrossing whore like Sophie Strudel got to have really rough, really good sex and I didn’t? It was probably just because she was from California. Like why was everyone so obsessed with California girls? What the hell did they have that I didn’t! . . . I snatched up a fistful of shitake mushrooms and made my way toward the longer than long checkout line . . . When it was finally my turn to pay my part the crocodile cashier took one long look at me, crossed his scaly arms across his apron, whipped his artichoke tail out at me, then nodded stiffly to the DON’T EVEN THINK ABOUT STEALING OR WE’LL GET YOU SENT TO GUANTANAMO sign above the register. Totally gasping, totally seething with suburban indignation, I slowly took out my extra-blue debit card, slowly waved it back and forth in front of the cashier’s elongated snout—back and forth, back and forth—then slowly kissed the magnetic strip and slowly swiped . . . I rapped my Twizzler nails on the counter, waited for the bank’s authorization to flash across the Pin pad screen. I sighed and thought that it was probably definitely because I hadn’t showered in like two or three days. My hair felt oily, felt gross. Even though it seriously wasn’t my fault. There just hadn’t been time to go home and change before work this morning. I mean it’s not like I wanted to go straight from the movie theater to the gallery. I just definitely didn’t have any other choice. There was just way too much to do. It really wasn’t my fault. I pinky swear! . . . Denied. What? I swiped again. Denied. What? I swiped again. Denied. What? The crocodile cashier laughing and reaching for the intercom, for his sawed-off shotgun. But before he could finish paging security, before he could finish loading a pair of 12-guage shells, I pulled out Daddy’s extra-platinum credit card and swiped and swiped and swiped! . . .
Like an urban fairytale the year’s first snowfall had sprinkled its Narnialike mystique all over Union Square. The sidewalk was wet with light. Everyone was out and about at nine o’ clock on a winter’s night—taxi dogsleds shuttling people this way and that, lumberjack hats and Burberry scarfs whisking by, Salvation Army volunteers in padded Santa Claus suits jingling bells, jingling bells, a whiskey-legged faun prancing round and round a flickering streetlight, a roving posse of cuter than cute Huckleberry Finns and Nancy Drews giggling and ice skating through the hand-holding crowd, giggling and pickpocketing the holiday shoppers, giggling and throwing beer bottles at the wasted Scrooge crying all alone on a bench, a reindeer-pulled MTA bus mushing and mushing through the really deep powder, the florescent billboard on its metal side advertising some new reality TV show for twentysomethings . . . I smiled and looked up at all the pretty buildings cuddled up against each other, smiling down on this totally picturesque, totally trendy winter wonderland. A few million windows lit up with office parties, with flatscreen fireplaces. Stars like actually twinkling over Union Square tonight—over Manhattan! Ugh, it was all just so pleasant. So deliciously comfortable. I bit my lower lip, and so that I could like kinda feel that I wasn’t totally wasting my twenties, decided to go sit down with a soothing cup of coffee before making the trek all the way back to Williamsburg . . .
I shivered my way through the steam-tinted doors, my blue and yellow vintage sneakers bringing in the slush and frost. But the Pretentious Cup was so crowded tonight—New York gnomes, European elves, African unicorns—that I like couldn’t even see the register. Apparently the entire city had decided to power up on caffeine before hitting up the Lady Gaga bars, the Marilyn Manson clubs. But since I definitely wasn’t in a waiting mood I splashed and hissed my way to the front of the line. I winked at the tattoo-sleeved barista behind the espresso machine, winked twice and ordered a peppermint mochaccino. But this time I obviously didn’t even try to use my extra-blue debit card. Obviously not. Because I seriously hadn’t realized my bank account was running that low. Even though I guess I definitely had been spending pretty recklessly. Ever since that bastard had dumped—I shivered away that horribly horrible thought. I rubbed the shiny lump on my forehead and tried my very best to warm up my supersmart brain . . . Balancing the really hot drink on my blistered thumb, holding on tight to my groceries, my canvas tote bag swinging like a lethal flail around my neck, I shoved and screamed and headbutted my way to the back of the wooden den, spilling coffee and lots of cream down my favorite sweater as I tried my best to navigate this rickety Saturday night . . . What the fuck! Somebody’s great-grandma was munching on a macadamia muffin and flipping through an interracial porn magazine at my table. I growled and poked the old hag in her old shoulder. I clenched my tiny teeth and told her that this was my table and that I definitely wasn’t in the mood for any senile sex games so could she please like just fuck on off?—stomping my sneakers, clicking my tongue while the drooling grandma carefully slid the glossy magazine back into its plastic sleeve, carefully put away the notes for the erotica novel she was obviously working on, carefully finished her macadamia muffin, and then carefully gripped her aluminum walker and lugged herself out of my seat and out of the coffeeshop . . . Totally sighing, totally dying here, I threw the groceries on top of my two- or three-person table and sat my bubble butt down on the metal chair. My smartphone vibrating but I obviously wasn’t about to answer it. Obviously not. Because I just couldn’t go on anymore. I was totally stuck. Totally trapped in a totally boring bell jar! Like nothing seemed to be working out for me. Life wasn’t working out for me. It was all just too much, too hard, too whatever. I plopped my heavy head down on the grocery bags, dunked my bloated button nose into the handglazed coffee mug, and with the smaller than small black speaker above my head oozing indie rock lullabies, closed my opossum eyes and played dead. Because I just didn’t know where (or when) everything took such a terribly terrible turn. I held my breath and tried my very best not to think about work. Tried my very best not to think about my rom-com. And I definitely tried my very best not to think about how Sophie and my ex were probably out doing something really warm and really fun. I just pressed my little ol’ cheek into the walnut bread, ran my teeny-weeny tongue over my mildewy teeth, and tried my very best to dream about my lavender childhood. When everything was like so much . . . better . . .
Minutes or hours later a grouchy voice squeezed itself into my remembered recess.
“What the fuck’s going on here?”
I slowly, slowly raised my bloated button nose up out of the mocha-tan swirls. “Oh, my, God,” I choked and coughed— “You!”
In his extra-large jean jacket and camo cargo pants, in his dumpster-diving righteousness, my favorite preacher was sitting straight across from me, his sunken, fur-lined warlock eyes glinting with brownblack riddles. “You don’t fucking look too good,” he growled. “What the fuck’s wrong?”
All I could definitely do was sigh. “Ugh, everything’s wrong. Seriously. Everything. My film school application is due this Thursday and obviously that like just happens to be the same day as the opening and obviously I don’t have anything to submit which means I’m never ever going to be ridiculously famous, ridiculously rich and I’ll just always be a really big loser forever and ever and ever. So yea everything’s just fucked. Just totally fucked!”
“Jesus,” Giacomo scratching his turd-clumpy beard, chewing on one of his Gorgon dreadlocks. “You need some fucking perspective. You need to fucking focus on the salvation of your immortal fucking soul.”
I licked the foam off my nose. I started to cry and shake.
My favorite gutter wolf leaned in over the table, his greenblack breath shelling my face with garbage flavors, with fecal spices.
“I fucking know what you fucking need,” Giacomo whispering and laying his supergreasy paw on my extra-small hand. “You need a fucking trip to the fucking Warehouse. That way you won’t fucking forget about the salvation of your immortal fucking soul. Let’s go back to the fucking Warehouse,” his words rocking me back and forth, back and forth, somehow soothing away all my twentysomething anxieties. “And fuck yea,” smiling his sinister smile, “I’ll take a fucking cup of coffee. No sugar, no fucking cream . . . Didn’t you fucking see the two for one signs?”