The Tom Thumb is a sad place on a Saturday night. My roommate is gone, at her sex’s place, and I need some ice cream. I like to walk the aisle. And look at people. If you look in the baskets, and in the eyes, there’s a story.
A dude in work pants and a shirt with his name on it, brick of diapers under his arm, a box of maxis in his left hand. And 24 ounces of freedom in his right. Do they even have 40s anymore? Probably not in this neighborhood. From the look on his face, he needs a 40. Maybe an 80. Poor fucker slow-walks the magazine rack, pretending he can dream about a hobby. He sees me looking at him. His misery fades for a nano as he looks at my tits.
Couple, younger than me. Frozen peas, macaroni and cheese. Suitcase of Bud Light, Suave shampoo, stack of Hungry Mans (men?) up to the top rail, waffles, family pack of Trojans, eggs, chips, salsa. Just moved in together, obviously, invisible magnetism pulling them into each other’s pants in the frozen food section. He’s hoping tonight is the night she’ll let him do her in the butt. She’s hoping he’ll get too hammered to ask. At least he asks. It’s sweet.
40-something guy in short pleats and a North Face knock-off jacket. The kind you get from work. The kind of work that’s made up of two words that don’t go together but sound clever when forced into the same bed. Nexgenuity. Underestimataruim. Cocksickle. Something like that. No wedding ring. Confused brow, like he got lost on the detergent aisle. That’s where I find him anyway, shifting back and forth. No cleaning products in his handheld basket. I’m not attracted to him, I mean, not really. He is average like a regular 40, not fat or ugly. Definitely lost.
I follow him, lagging and trying to look normal like the rest of the Saturday night freaks. I stop off for my Cookies ‘n Cream and catch up with him at the self-check-out. (Self-check-out. I do that quite often, daily really. But in a naked mirror and with a flogger. Can’t really get there in the nasty grocery store. People walk in here with no shoes. Fucking bourgeoisie.)
40’s man does not agree with the self-check-out kiosk. She keeps telling him to put his scanned item in the bagging area. He tells her, with fervor, that he already did. She’s a computer. She, probably, is listening to him and secretly talking shit to the other kiosks about him, making fun of his short-pants. They all computer-laugh at him and his groceries. What grown-up human eats ramen noodles? Ga-Ga-Ga!
He finishes his business. I double-bag my ice cream. It’s going to be a tad melty by the time I get home. In the parking lot, I watch him fumble with his keys. He puts one in the door lock of his Accord. I guess his key fob battery is dead. Dude, I mean if that Golf-Digest mag gives you more pleasure than a working door lock button, rock on. He gets in and starts the car.
I run to mine and jump in, pitching my Blue Bell on the floorboard. He takes off and I follow him. I mean, I don’t have any plans tonight.
He lives in an apartment complex near mine. Once inside the gates we wind around the speed bumps like they don’t apply to us. He pulls into his premium covered parking spot, #24, and I pull up next to him, #25, uncovered on the end. We exit our cars at the same time, I smile at him, to disarm myself. He jingles his keys at a door.
His apartment is on the first floor. I walk between the buildings, like I’m going somewhere special, like I am excited to sit on my couch and catch up on my TMZ. Building 2 faces a pond. Trees dot the bank. It smells of rank moss and dog shit. I find a fresh mound as my right food gets slippery. Thank God Keds are machine-washable. A tree hides me as I wait.
A living room/kitchen combo floods the pond with light. 40’s man drops his bags on the counter and quick-walks to another part of his apartment. I bet he has to pee. About a minute later he comes back and loads his fridge and pantry. Still wearing the Digiteering jacket. After kicking off his shoes, he opens the back door and walks out onto his patio. He sits and opens the lid on his grill pulling a pack of cigs and a book of matches from the place where food is cooked. He lights one and smokes, looking at the pond, and unknowingly right at me.
I wait while he enjoys his special time. Behind a tree, I give thanks to whatever made me thin enough to fit behind an apartment tree. The jacket man stows his cigs in the grille. Inside, he sits on his couch and turns on the TV. I can’t see what he’s watching, but his face never changes. Just the flashes of blue and red lights on him, his eyes trying to follow the action. Probably Columbo reruns. Or Fox News.
My ice cream is surely melting so I need to shit or get off the pot. I tip toe, in more doggie-poo, up to his patio railing and reach over to the grill. It creaks a bit when opened, but he didn’t notice. I shake out a Newport and say fuck it and take the book of matches.
On the other side of the patio I notice a window, where I can maybe get a better look. I amble over there, both my feet now fully involved in shit-cake. I want to take them off, but then I’ll get shit between my toes – I can already feel the moist leech of dog feces through the soles of my shoes, but I have the illusion of a barrier. Shoes stay on.
I watch him from just beyond the trapezoid of light that spills out from his living room. He sits in the center of his couch, arms up on the backrest, proud, like he has two imaginary bitches with him. I light my cig and he watches TV. The cherry of the cigarette lights my face and blonde hair. Lipstick long since worn off, doesn’t stick to the butt, but I still taste it. The last drag is a big one and I cough on exhale. He turns and looks in my direction. I stand still like a traffic cone.
He walks to the window and looks out, bobbing his head, craning to see me. I want him to see me. He doesn’t. And that’s probably for the better. He isn’t interesting enough to kill. The world wouldn’t suffer a loss.
Speaking of loss – my ice cream.
I put the book of matches in my pocket.