Thursday, March 31, 2011

celery and reduced-fat peanut butter.

Victoria never treated herself to anything. Food-wise, especially. Years of societal conditioning and issues of Cosmo in the grocery store checkout stands made her self-conscious of even the small container of frozen yogurt she had tossed in her basket as a reward for having been so very, very diligent. And after reading the headline of that month's cover article--how to please your man, do things to your man that would make him never leave you, convince him you're the type of woman that's worth opening doors for, etc.--she removed the eight ounce plastic container of White Chocolate Raspberry and tried to hide it between the boxes of candy bars and sugarfree gum hovering above the item belt. But then she realized that it would probably melt to an irreparable degree within about five minutes, so she slid it into the half-open door of the Coca-Cola cooler, hoping that it'd at least delay the inevitable long enough for an inventory-minded stock clerk to take it back to its home.

She felt so--examined, watching the checkout girl, who couldn't have been more than three years younger than her, run the half-gallon of skim milk, bag of celery, jar of reduced fat peanut butter, two-stick pack of I Can't Believe It's Not Butter, and a packet of facial cleansing wipes over the scanner and toss them far too carelessly into a single plastic bag at the end of the aisle, looking up at her between items, all skeptical eyes and open-mouthed gum chewing. This wasn't food that Victoria wanted, but she had her goals, and she'd be damned if she couldn't just exercise some willpower to get there, and she didn't have to justify herself to this girl or anyone else.

After paying in cash and receiving a small handful of change, Victoria marveled at how neatly all of the items fit into the single bag, when they had looked so disparate and unconnected in her basket as she took them down from shelves like leaves from a tree. Maybe they teach that during training, Victoria thought. Maybe they show you how to put everything together. She walked all the way to the end of the massive parking lot; her mom had recommended she try and get exercise wherever she could, and an extra quarter mile walk was at least ten calories gone from her thighs. That adds up, she reminded herself.

The refrigerator was customarily near-empty, and Victoria's few purchases did little to populate it. It looked like one of those refrigerators in a movie about a poor person, the ones where the character opens it up and you immediately pity them because of how little food there is, how the three-quarters-empty jar of mayonnaise is beginning to turn yellow under a flickering florescent bulb casting judgment below. But she unpacked her purchase, folded the plastic bag for future use, and went to bed.

It took her a while to get there, the rumbles of her stomach always off-rhythm to the whirring of the central air leaking from hiding vents and waking her back up. But she started imagining each patterned air conditioner hum cycle as a footstep toward the two miles she'd be running in the morning. She double-checked her alarm clock, verified the accuracy of its setting, and wondered how many other people would be up that early.

Victoria slept fitfully. In the morning, when the sun finally came through the slits in her window shades, she wondered why it didn't feel any warmer when it was actually up. After putting on her tank top, running shorts, and shoes--the ones she only wore running--she began her jog, able to push herself only by pretending that she had somewhere to go.

The morning dew on the green grass made front yards look like a graveyard of broken mirrors and disco balls, catching the light and putting it straight into her retinas.

She wished she had worn her sunglasses. She hated leaving her eyes uncovered.


suzy said...

you're a very good writer.

emilyf said...

poor soul. good descriptions. "down from the shelves like leaves from a tree" i liked

Meg said...

I think this is a longer piece. <3