As soon as I step outside the front door, I know it was a mistake not to bring a coat. It is cold, rainy and windy. Thankfully, Whole Foods has an underground parking garage, so I don't go back inside. Once I get to the car, it will be warm and I'll be fine.
One thing I am learning about myself is that I am hopelessly unobservant. Like, I can know people all my life and not be able to tell you with any certainty what their eye color is. Stuff like that. Stuff like the fact that grocery stores are chilly.
I walk in and immediately am aware that not only is it freezing inside, but I am also not wearing a proper bra. And the nursing pads I have had as a nipple barrier throughout the day are compromised. One is in the sink full of dirty diapers in my bathroom (It's like building one of those peaceful miniature rock gardens in a small box of sand, except it's a squishy diaper mountain and it smells) and I don't know the whereabouts of nursing pad number two. I decide to make this shopping trip quick.
Side note: When you have two babies with industrial vacuum strength sucking powers nourishing themselves off of your body all day, it does something to your nipples. Enough said.
My course is always to begin in the refrigerator section and move through the freezer section. I am now covering myself with my electric turquoise shopping list. Years ago when we were first married, I bought a ream (yes, 500 sheets) of this electric turquoise paper. This was one of my favorite colors as a kid and I guess I wasn't quite over it until my mid-twenties. So, now I use it for random purposes and suspect I will for a long time. Maybe I will print my children's high school graduation party invitations on it.
I am paranoid about some things. I have that disease where I think people are looking at me when likely no one actually is. This is why I have never been able to fast dance in public, why when I wear a lower-cut shirt I am constantly checking out my neckline to see how much cleavage I am really showing (which is impossible to determine since no one has the vantage point of my head) and why I am darting up and down the aisles of Whole Foods treating my grocery list like it is a tube top. This paranoia, in particular relation to grocery stores, is only enforced by a persistent memory of a college trip to QFC where my only purchases were two large pummelos (Chinese grapefruits). I carried them in the palms of my hands as one would if carrying two large balls and the lanky, slack-jawed checker made some snide comment about my nice grapefruits. I did not find him funny.
When I make it to the fish counter, I think I am getting close. After this, it's just bulk foods, produce, checkout and game over. I look across the counter. I know this guy. I see him a lot. And either he is the kind of guy who looks at everyone with just a hint of warmth or I remind him of some girl who broke his heart in junior high. There is an awkwardness between us as he carefully selects each piece of sole for my fish tacos. I make some ridiculous comment about how impressed I am that my order is exactly one pound and he answers very seriously about how hard he tries to select the right fillets to match the requested weight. It is at this moment that I find my second nursing pad. It is shoved into a wad under my breast where I put it while Elena was nursing before bed. I have not felt this conspicuous since I stuffed my bra with socks in the sixth grade to imagine what it be like to have boobs. And how is it that I have dropped my turquoise grocery list to my side? Grocery list up! Oh and I am practically dancing. There is no music playing, but I sway dramatically back and forth, as I often do when I should be standing still. When I wearing a baby, no one questions it. But I have no baby. Just a bunchy nursing pad and I am smiling too much and still talking about how impressed I am with his fish selection. When is he going to print the stupid label? Finally fish in hand. I say goodbye, turn around and hoist up my pants. They are on the verge of falling off.
He walks by me while I am loading up a plastic bag full of organic thick rolled oats. The floor was clearly just swept before I arrived. When I walk away, you can see the outline of my shoes in the pile of oats I leave behind.
Calypso music plays on KEXP all the way home. I find myself pumping my fist in the air like I am an audience member for Arsenio Hall. I consciously try not to do the white man's overbite, but I do clap and snap my fingers like someone who has no musical talent. My kids are going to be embarrassed of me someday. I will try to protect them from this, but there will always be another day when I can't find my coat and it's time to go to the grocery store.