This prompt asks everyone to take ten minutes and free write a list of things you see while waiting in the checkout line at a grocery store. I offer some obvious suggestions (The Star magazine’s “Cellulite” Report, screaming babies in those little toddler seats on the shopping carts, Starburst candies), but I also encourage everyone to think beyond the obvious or the familiar, such as the slightly furry toes on the sexy feet of the guy in front of you, the glass case filled with cartons of cigarettes, and of course, the items on the conveyor in front of or behind yours.
Once everyone has generated a list, I ask that we each choose three from the list and read them around out loud. Sometimes these are single words, or phrases, or longer sentences that paint an image for the listener. No matter how they come out, I encourage everyone to write down whatever resonates or stands out. Then, we choose three, write them at the top of a blank page, and write in response to them for 20 minutes.
Here are the three I wrote down:
Sexy Daddies Cellulite Photos Couples arguing
What I wrote follows.
I got picked up once in a grocery store. Actually, the guy—let’s call him George—followed me out to my car and asked me out to coffee. He was handsome, in a sexy Frankenstein kind of way, with a big booty and gorgeous teeth. I said yes, but we only got to date #2 before I realized that George was a misanthrope with an intimidatingly huge dick.
But hope springs eternal, so I always follow Este Lauder’s advice when I grocery shop: never leave the house looking less than your best; you never know who you’re going to meet.
Even so, I’m not a total romantic. I know most people don’t even talk to one another in a grocery store checkout line. We pretend to be offended or surprised by The Star‘s latest humiliating bikini photos of famous people (Guess who? Look inside!), or People Magazine‘s annual announcement of the sexiest man alive (Tom Cruise again? Really?), but we’re really just checking out what everybody else is buying. Huge jars of mayo and raw steak trapped under plastic wrap always concern me as a combo. I’m surprised by the amount of Coke Zero that towers over everything else on the conveyor belt, and I can’t for the life of me understand canned salmon, but maybe there’s a very happy Calico waiting at home for that.
The single guys with their big bottles of whiskey and their boxes of frozen pizzas make me sad, and the college dudes who buy cases of Bud and jugs of bleach make me nervous. I have yet to stand next to a man who has a similar selection to mine, and even as I write this, I know I’m being judgmental. Me and my hormone-free meat and dairy, my cage-free eggs and non-GMO produce. Am I the only single man who buys bread with fiber in it and doesn’t eat frozen food or processed cheese?
I know what you’re thinking: that’s who shops at Safeway. And maybe you’re right, but it doesn’t make it any less depressing.
Mostly, I’ve let go of meeting Mr. Right over a rubber conveyor belt separator. Even when I see a pair of sexy feet with slightly furry toes, my eyes go right to the hand next. Wedding bands abound. The single guys are usually grey and lonely, or talking on their cell phones, ignoring the cashier. Rude. Not many men make a good impression in the Express Lane, especially when they have seventeen items.
But every now and then, the flame flickers for a moment. Someone handsome puts down that rubber separator for me, smiles, says hello. Sometimes I can feel someone’s eyes on my ass, and that’s a start. I think about the art opening we’ll attend someday as a couple.
“How did you two meet?” an inquisitive thirty-something will ask over a plastic cup of red wine.
“Stephen picked me up in line at Trader Joe’s,” I’ll say, and he’ll argue.
“That’s not how it happened at all.” Then he’ll tell his version.
But so far, that hasn’t happened. I usually leave the store without talking to anyone except the cashier. But I don’t feel sorry for myself. I know that shopping in the safe, wide aisles of a clean grocery store is a privilege that many people do not have, even in the city I live in.
I get in my little car, turn on Madonna, loud, and sing along:
We both still believe in love.