I'm wandering through a supermarket but I don't know why I'm there. I vaguely remember dragging myself out of bed and then trudging down the street, but I can't think of any real purpose for this journey. Maybe I'm hoping Walt Whitman or Allen Ginsberg will appear to me among the groceries, but this seems unlikely, especially since I'm sober.
I'm standing near rows of apples, organized neatly by color. They look delicious, and I almost pick one up and eat it, but I know somebody would notice and say to me, "Hey kid, you have to pay for that." And I have no money. Not that I would give it to the fucking corporation that owns this supermarket chain anyway. Not that I would pay for a fucking apple anyway.
Apples grow on trees. When I was a kid and I'd eat and apple, I'd pick out the seeds and plant them somewhere in the ground. I hoped they'd grow into an apple tree, and then I'd have as many apples as I wanted and anybody else who wanted some could have them too. We should have that, fruit trees everywhere, and anybody can take as much fruit as they want. The government pays for these parks with these pretty flowers and bushes, why not fruit trees instead? I still think it's a brilliant idea. I once wrote a letter to the mayor about it.
I leave the apples and I walk through the aisles, watching people. A yuppie picking out organic fruits and vegetables. Two kids giggling as they load their cart up with sugary cereals. A chubby teenage girl comparing the nutritional facts on two different packs of cookies. A few twenty-something guys push past me in a cart full of beer and potato chips. A store employee a couple years older than me checks the expiration date on cartons of milk and takes some of them off the shelf.
I stop and just stare at him as he does this. He's throwing it away. It's expired so he's throwing it away. He doesn't care about how the cows were tortured and pumped full of hormones to get that milk, he doesn't care about the obscenity of such a waste of food when so many are starving, he doesn't care that the milk really is still drinkable past that sell-by date. Why would he? He does his job. These people, the customers, they don't want expired milk.
I feel sick. He's throwing it away. I want to tell him to stop, but I don't know how. He sees me watching him, turns to me and says, "Can I help you?" I shake my head no, and he goes back to what he's doing. I want to tear myself away, but somehow I can't. The shoppers are unfazed. How do they manage to move on? Alright, maybe they are unmoved by the tragedy of the wasted milk, but they've suffered in their lives, and here they are, living their daily lives, doing what they view as necessary to get by. They've lost loved ones, they've had broken hearts, they've been rejected, and yet, here they are, shopping for groceries as if nothing is wrong. Well something is wrong.
Usually I'd make excuses for them, I'd try to understand, but today I have no sympathy for them, today I am disgusted by them. I'm not one of them, I'm not human in the way these people are, I'm something else entirely. The words on the tip of my tongue are, "I hate you fucking people," and I want to scream them as a loud as I can. Somehow I don't. Somehow I just stand there, watching the guy throw away the milk, crying pathetically, paranoid that people are looking at me but I don't even care.
Well a part of me does care, so I leave. I find a payphone, fish some coins that I didn't know were there out of my pocket, and make a call. I don't know who I'm calling, I just dial without thinking.
Alex picks up after a few rings, and I smile when I hear his voice. It's calm and reassuring, although sleepy. I can picture him, gently untangling himself from whoever he fell asleep with, sitting up one the bed and picking up the phone, his hair going in every direction, yawning and rubbing his eyes with his free hand.
I say something to him, something barely English, it's garbled and rushed and I don't even know what I'm saying.
His voice comes clearly to me over the telephone wires, saying, "it's okay David. Take a deep breath. Where are you? tell me where you are, and I'll come get you."
It's nice to have somebody who loves you. I want to say that to him, but I don't. Instead: "do you know every year American restaurants and stores throw out over 27 tons of food?"
I hear him sigh over the phone. Of course he does. He's probably the one who told me. "That's a lot," he says finally.
"And on average, every American wastes more than a pound of food a day."
I listen to the sounds of the street near me, horns honking and all other kinds of ugly car noises. "why do people drive cars when they can walk?" I ask, my voice feeling incredibly small and hopeless.
"I don't know. Why are you paying to talk to me on the phone when we could be talking in person?"
I hang up the phone, and I walk through crowded but strangely solitary streets, feeling absurd, wondering for perhaps the thousandth time what used to be here before all this concrete.