There is a man standing at the door, I don’t know whether he is lost or left, he is staring at a table of FAB-YULE-OUS LAST-MINUTE GIFT ITEMS; a bottle cap dart board, an essential oils reed diffuser, a bundle of three cheeky-Christmas T-shirts, an array of Yankee Candle Holiday collections, and so on. He is still wearing his jacket, bundled to the neck.
I follow my wife passed him, he smells cold as we pass.
My wife stops in the ceramics and begins perusing. A large man passes me, a child holding the end of his jacket, his wife speeding ahead with the cart, he is playing something on his phone. His hat is on and his beard is unkempt.
“Should we get this for my parents?”
I turn, my wife is holding a ceramic jar with a plaque on it that says “MILK.”
“Sure,” I tell her.
She picks up something else, I wonder about the last time I saw a milk carton and what must have happened to all of the runaways.
“Or this one?” my wife asks.
“Sure,” I tell her.
She frowns, “which one?”
“You’re not pointing at either of them.”
“The milk one.”
“They are both milk ones.”
I refocus. “Oh, that one.” I point.
“That one is for tea,” she cries.
I shrug, and she waves her hand at me, annoyed. “You’re annoying, go away.”
I head back for the door. I pass a younger man in a display chair. He has a patriot’s jacket on and is staring into an aisle of discount lotions. I head for the exit. Someone has collected the man who’d been by the door. Good for him.
I stand outside the door looking out on the parking lot. I notice a spot three rows from the exit. We parked about ten rows back. I go and get the car, move it to the empty spot and sit in the heat. I notice in the rear-view that someone has moved from a spot in the first row. I reverse out and straight into it, cutting off a PT Cruiser.
Who the hell still owns a PT cruiser, I think, as the man behind the wheel flips me off.
I sit in the car another twenty minutes before slowly making my way back inside. As I pass the shoe department, I see an old man sitting on one of the stools, he isn’t trying shoes on. He is just sitting, two hands on his cane as an older woman bustles around him with an armful of sandals.
“Eight dollars, dude!” I hear someone cry out. I turn, two teenage boys are looking at a pair of sneakers.
“Eight dollars! Merry Christmas!”
“Merry Christmas, eight dollars, dude!”
“Merry Christmas, ZOOOOLLA!”
They run off with the sneakers.
I find my wife in pet accessories.
“We should get the cats something.”
I nod, watching a Hispanic man help his wife pick from a giant pile of Buy three get one free Christmas socks. Another man walks by on the phone, “WHICH ONE!—That one? You have one of those!—because you’re always THROWING IT TO MY SIDE OF THE BED!”
My wife has a Santa cat outfit held up to her own body, she is looking down at it.
“Should we get this?” she asks.
I smile and nod.
It isn’t enough.
I give her a thumbs up.
She rolls her eyes. An old lady, digging through a table of hand-creamers, laughs.
“Men are so useless, huh?” she tells my wife.
My wife laughs.
The woman laughs.
Am I living in a sexist narrative, I wonder? Do I only not want to shop because I have grown up in a patriarchy? Would helping pick out a cat outfit make me a better, more gender inclusive? Is that what that means? It doesn’t seem to have impacted that guy over there.
I glare at the Hispanic man who has just made his wife laugh after hanging a pair of socks off each of his ears.
I look back at my wife. She is fingering through a rack of cat treats. I walk over and grab one off the rack.
Christmas Turkey Dressing
I open it and take one out.
“Hey babe, watch.”
She looks up at me.
I pop the treat in my mouth.
She stares at me as I chew the treat. Her face goes very quickly from curiosity to disgust, and by the time I swallow, concern.
“Why the fuck did you do that?” She asks.
I look down at the bag of treats, then to my other empty, then back up at her.
“I thought it would be funny?”
She looks at me, then to the old lady who’d also stopped, arms deep in the pillow-pile, to watch me eat a treat. They share a look. The old lady smiles sympathetically.
My wife hands me her armful of goodies and pats me on the arm.
“Go find somewhere to sit by the registers sweetie, I won’t be long.”