Cute, well-built, good taste in clothes, smart, sympathetic.Â Not bad, not bad at all, I admire him inwardly as I nod.Â “It’s exhausting that’s for sure. Â But it’s worth it.”
“The best things in life are,” Jae nods.Â There is an awkward pause when neither of us speaks.Â I am reluctant for the conversation to end and, unbelievably, he appears that way, too.Â I reach for another orange.Â “Do you shop here often?” he finally asks.
“Usually,” I reply, turning to place the bag of oranges into the shopping cart.Â My butt bumps the display stand and disrupts the delicate balance of the fruit pyramid.Â First one, then three, then a dozen, then more tumble to the floor with exponential velocity.Â There’s nothing I can do to stop it.Â It’s an orange avalanche as the pyramid collapses and floods the floor with fruit.
“Oh no, oh dear,” I panic, scrambling to retrieve some.
“Let me help,” Jae says, already crouching down to pick them up.
But it’s a hopeless cause.Â No matter how many we put back, more tumble down.Â A store employee comes to the rescue.
“No worries, I’ll take care of it,” he says.
“I’m so sorry,” I murmur.Â My face is burning from embarrassment, not just because other customers are watching and snickering, but because I look bad in front of Jae.Â My self-esteem crumbles as fast as the pyramid did and I think of nothing beyond escaping the citrus apocalypse as fast as I can.
Without a word, I navigate my cart around the oranges and race for the bakery.Â In the sanctuary of bread and buns I nurse my wounded pride.Â So typical, I moan.Â My fat butt literally gets in the way of me being socially acceptable.
I grab a loaf of bread and try to remember what else I need.Â Cereal, biscuitsâ€” and tampons.Â That’s what keeps slipping my mind.Â The biscuit aisle is empty, which saves me the trouble of squeezing past other customers and garnering unspoken judgments: she shouldn’t eat biscuits; she doesn’t need more sweets; yeah, like the low-cal ones will help her.
The cereal aisle is two rows over.Â I push past the next aisle and see Jaeâ€”and speed up before he sees me.Â One row over, the cereal aisle is crowded with four other carts.Â I decide to go down it anyway when Jae appears at the opposite end.Â We catch each other’s eye. Â I panic and whirl my cart around and take off.Â Abe and Fi can eat toast for breakfast.
It’s a relief to get the feminine products aisle.Â Now I just had to get through the check-out line and I was home free.
“Hey there,” says a familiar voice.Â I look up to find Jae standing in front of my cart.
“Hey again,” I reply meekly.Â I hold a super-sized box of tampons and set it in the cart.Â What is he doing here?Â Men aren’t supposed to be on this aisle. Â Isn’t there some kind of unspoken social decorum rule about this?Â Women don’t invade the man cave; men don’t invade the tampon aisle.Â Well, except for the reluctant blokes whose significant others ask them to pick up a few items on their way home from work.Â I feel my face turning red.Â If a gal isn’t safe here, then where can she escape to?