I miss the supermarket.
I miss the bins of fresh produce, the shelves of bread, the luxury of knowing that, if we need something else, I’ll be back tomorrow.
Really, the problem is that I am not a planner. I used to shop almost everyday, meandering up and down the aisles and picking up whatever I’d forgotten the day before. Those days are over.
Now food shopping is like hunting, and I am more of a gatherer. It’s all logistics, and I’m more a directionless grazer, grabbing a little of this, a little of that as I go.
I know not everyone has this problem. Because everyday on Facebook, I see my peers with beautiful quarantine baking projects and feasts. Clearly, in their houses, they have flour.
I am trying to be different.
In this new reality, I take regular and exhaustive inventory of our refrigerator and pantry. Anything I can order for delivery, I do. But last week, I found myself with lots of milk but no cereal, butter but no bagels, cans (and cans) of tuna but no mayonnaise. Lots of cheese. No bread.
I’m not good at inventory either.
So my husband and I suited up. With gloves, masks, bleach wipes and a long list, we ventured to the supermarket.
Over the course of a twenty year marriage, it is natural to have circumstances that challenge a union: wallpapering a room together, furniture shopping, or agreeing upon a holiday menu. These things are tricky. Skiing together, cleaning out the attic, any organized competitive sport.
I am here to tell you that nothing reveals differing priorities quite like pandemic food shopping. An argument over how to thoroughly disinfect a shopping cart can threaten a marriage.
Perusing bouquets of flowers earned me nasty looks from my betrothed. There was no lingering over packages of strawberries. If we could not find English muffins right away, we were to move on. Quickly. All of this was communicated, of course, through eye contact, since our face masks muffled our voices.
While the time in the grocery store was minimal, the process of unloading the car, wiping everything down, washing our hands, emptying packages, washing our hands, disposing of bags, freezing items….well, it was an hours long endeavor. It was exhausting.
So, maybe I don’t miss the supermarket.
I miss the time alone. Walking up and down the aisles, humming along to ’70s soft rock. I miss the carefree days of shopping without engaging my fight or flight reflex. Because, honestly, I have very little fight.
After the stress of food shopping — and nearly consciously uncoupling in the dairy aisle — I sat down. I needed to rest my sympathetic nervous system. I logged onto Facebook and saw that my neighbor had spent the afternoon making two kinds of bread.
For a moment, I considered egging her house. But then I remembered I forgot to buy eggs.