Here is a little story I read in January 2010 during the residency of the Solstice MFA at Pine Manor College. Some of you heard me read it aloud, but others have not. Enjoy, or enjoy again: “Aisle Four at the Stop and Shop: Where Lesbians Go to Pick Up Men.”
“Now there’s a picture,” he says to me, leaning over his shopping cart, “Look at you holding your Dunkin’ Donuts coffee cup in one hand…” and then he points to the coffee-maker box I’m holding up with the other. I shrug my shoulders, perhaps begin to explain, you see, I’m the poster-child for caffeine addiction. We are in the Stop and Shop on a Friday night. He’s a youngish-looking bald man with blue eyes and a smile forming on his mouth. I look down into his shopping cart for clues. His cart is full of Nature’s Promise and Kashi products, expensive teas (no Lipton’s.) I mentally note the lack of red meat, of any meat. I look back to his eyes.
“Guess you caught me in my addiction,” I say. Thank god I’d thrown some zucchini and summer squash into my own shopping cart, some fresh spinach, enough vegetables to hide the deli-sliced roast beef and Genoa salami that lay at the bottom. I am suddenly ashamed of my food. The Oreos are still visible. He holds up his Kashi cookies and says, “These are really good,” but I can’t believe that anything called a Kashi cookie will taste as good as an Oreo. Then he talks about tea. He tells me at Starbucks he only orders tea. We are strangers who just happened to have met at this moment in aisle four of the Stop and Shop.
“Now, I make my own tea and bring it in a thermos to work,” he says, “I throw a slice of cheese on my own veggie sandwich I make at home, rather than buying one everyday at the Halfway Café. I save a lot of money cooking for myself and I’ve lost ten pounds.”
I don’t tell him that at work today, I made three huge hamburger-filled tacos at the build-your-own taco bar and inhaled them into my body in less than five minutes. His eyes are twinkling at me, and I think he finds me attractive, somehow, even under the harsh lighting of the supermarket. I’m flattered, truly. I don’t tell him about my red-meat diet or that I sleep with women. I don’t see the need to come out to him regarding my love of hamburger or lesbians here in the coffee aisle at the Stop and Shop. Frankly, I’m enjoying his attention.
“So, you work around here?” I ask him. I continue to make small talk with a bald vegan man who eats Kashi. Why do I continue to engage in conversation?
Or is a better question, “Why not?”
Do I want to get laid by a man? I reach for a box of Triscuit crackers on the shelf opposite the coffee. “Oh yes, Triscuits,” I say a little too enthusiastically. Get laid the old fashioned way after twenty-five years of getting laid in alternative ways with or by women. Or have I been the one doing the laying? I lay women, I don’t say to him. Am I hetero-curious all of sudden in middle-age? Maybe. But no blow jobs. I place the Triscuits in my basket, over the Oreos. I never want another dick in my mouth. I don’t even really want a Triscuit. I’m not actually saying these things out loud to this man as we talk at the Stop and Shop. I’m saying something about Triscuit crackers, how I love the garlic ones best. While they are not Kashi-level-healthy, they are more presentable than the Cheez-its to which I am normally attracted.
“Did you see what you just did?” He’s laughing.
“What? Oh, you mean the Triscuits?”
“You were talking about coffee and then in a flash you were praising the merits of a Triscuit.”
“I’m on caffeine,” I say to him and furthermore, I only do oral sex with women, which I don’t say to him. When we do it together, create that sixty-nine, it’s better than any fucking Kashi cookie. But right now, while I talk to Tim, who slipped in his name at some point, I do not expound upon my preference for a lesbian sixty-nine over a Kashi product.
It’s difficult to figure out his age but for some reason, I imagine he’s in his early thirties. His skin is smooth and without wrinkles. Finally I ask, “How old are you?’ and he surprises me by saying “Forty-nine.” I surprise him by telling him I’m forty-seven. We stand in aisle four for a time ooh-ing and ahhh-ing over how young the other still looks. Tim tells me he’s a fiction writer and independent film-maker and he doesn’t need to tell me he’s environmentally green. One glance in the shopping cart makes that evident.
What a perfect guy I’ve met here in the supermarket on a Friday night. I, too, am a writer and into creative endeavors. I, too, enjoy talking and laughing. I, too, am apparently single and lonely enough on a Friday night to strike up a conversation with a stranger in aisle four. How perfect might we be together? But what would he think of all those plastic bottles I throw out with the trash? What would he think of the bloody roast beef I’ll be throwing in between two slices of white bread? Yeah, now those would be the problems between us should we have a date: the plastic bottles I throw in the trash and my roast beef sandwich — never mind the last twenty-five years of my life that I’ve spent sleeping with women.
Postscript to my encounter with Tim: I end up having tea and coffee with him a few times at a local Starbucks. He’s a very kind man, but aside from the fact that he is a heterosexual man and I am a lesbian, I can’t see him again because he keeps showing up with his black lace shoes untied. I am deeply freaked out that a grown man does not know enough to tie his shoes. There’s always that one thing.