A mundane trip to the grocery leads to insight and fantasy
|Toilet Paper Periodicals
By Patricia Ann Meyer
I stand aimlessly at the check out stand embracing a six-pack of two-ply toilet paper. The clock reads 8:15, as I itemize the groceries tossed to the cashier. An older woman, maybe 45 or 50 cut in line two steps before me with a package of ravioli and a loaf of French bread. Dinner by 9:30 and bed by 10:00, I think guessing that work probably keeps her late and isolated from a domestic life. No children, no hips, no husband, no ring, a dog, no a cat, I presume, sits curled on barely worn paisley sofa waiting her lonely owner's return.
A 90's gal, my idol, my foolish fantasy before me. I stand behind her, twenty plus or minus years, and contemplate my future. As I cling the paper rolls to my chest, I think of my daughter in bed with fever, waiting her mother's hurried return. An ironic thing is life.
Cold brightly lit grocery stores, here's where life is real. I glance at the Cosmo propped precociously in its place. She and her sisters challenge we female patrons to make the most of our simple lives - to diet, have better sex, seize the day. But ah here is where fantasy and reality collide. A child whines, a mother barks, the bells ding, an old man moans for another pack of cigarettes, and his wife leans heavily on her basket for support.
I step forward with my tissue. I like to call it tissue, it is a softer sound – a sound connoting the importance of its use. "Paper" is not a thing you want touching those tender secret flower-like places. Advertisers live in a world of toilet paper fantasy. They cunningly avoid alluding to its actual use, while applauding the many other creative uses of TP; i.e. padding for protection from the school principal. Those double and triple plies really do the trick. And let's not forget how puppies and toddlers enjoy rolling it down the stairs.
"If aliens are watching our television signals from outer space they'd never guess what we really use TP for," I think as I step up to the counter, dismissing the petty challenges Woman's Day has pitched my way.
The older woman scurries off, and I relinquish my embrace of my single two-ply item from the paper aisle, "Anything else mam," he asks. I look up into the unexpected depths of icy blue eyes, piercing eyes, eyes that shouldn't belong to a checker. Eyes belonging somewhere two steps behind me, eyes that called to me from the periodicals, Men's Life, Soap Digest, People, but not from behind the red light scanner at Albertsons. "Mam?" he asks, “is this it?”
I turn away and fumble for cash. For a moment I consider the potential value of Cosmo and her article, "Seven ways to say Hello and never say Goodbye."
"Yes," I say stealing several seconds to add him up eyes and all. He's too old to be a checker, which means what? "Unaccomplished," mother would say, "unfortunate" my best friend sighs from her ever present presence in my cerebrum. Who cares I think. They are just pretty eyes. Eyes for old ladies with aching backs, eyes for young ladies with small babies, eyes for 90's gals; eyes from behind the scanner and eyes for me when I pass through.
For a moment the very real task of gathering groceries has become fantasy. I pass behind the red light scanner, enter the world of GQ and he smiles and hands me change. Our eyes say a quick come again and I turn and leave. And as the wide doors of reality slide open before me I step out to my car carrying one slightly brimming bag of Toilet Paper Periodical fantasy.