Food. Water. Shelter.
I don't like to explain my random stories, but there's an exception to every rule.
Recently I had to have (the most minor) surgery on my foot. Toe to be specific. The night after the surgery, I had fallen asleep and tossed and turned in bed, and the bandage had come off to leave a bloody toe exposed. I know, gross, right?
Well, I hurried over to the nearest grocery store in hardly pajamas and a beanie (because, you know, SLC is getting chilly) and thank God the store was open at 6 in the morning. However, because it was so early, it was quite deserted. In writing, I haven't had anything really hit me lately. But walking down the aisles, heels only like some kind of knock-off Frankenstein's creation to get gauze and some Neosporin, my imagination got the best of me. I came home (cleaned & dressed my poor cut) and wrote this little story down in a mad and wounded-toe craze.
I put the car in park. When I stepped out of the car, the cold rushed in and clung to the exposed skin: my cheeks, my nose, my fingers. My breathe condensed, and the little puffs of fog from my mouth floated about in front of my face every few seconds like clouds of liquid dust. The sun was still yet to creep up over the mountains and shine through the storming clouds, so my tired eyes were fooled into thinking it was nighttime: A time to be sleepy, careless even.
My first steps were rough. A noticeable limp held on to my left foot and so my leg dragged along in a jerky and lagging motion. When I looked down, blood. Apparently numb to pain and injury, I was alarmed and dove my stare back to my car. A trail of bloody drops, trickling the path I walked stared back at me. I swallowed back emotion, reaction, disgust even. No matter how many times I encountered it, blood made me sick. From then on, I realized I was oblivious to my body’s nerves unless I paid my body special attention. Closing my eyes and really trying to focus in on sensations, I felt the chill on my ears so I pulled my beanie down a little lower and the cold sting warmed to a quiet buzz under its new covers.
The double doors opened automatically like all generic and powerful super grocery store doors do. "Come in," They say. "Consume," They say. The bright lights only make the doors' calls more enticing. The mighty lamps only scream, "It's never too late to make a purchase! (...or two. or three.)"
I wipe my forehead, feeling guilty that despite the horrific circumstances it had to be under, it gladdens me to know that none of that really matters anymore: Consumerism. Religion. Minimalism. Sexism. Racism. Healthcare. Education. Immigration. The 1%. Refugees. Drone Strikes. Abortion. Same Sex Marriage. What I'm going to wear today and how many calories are in a donut (...or two. or three).
I take a step over a corpse, and go only so far to side step another. When I had seen the first few dead bodies, I had walked around them with at least a 50-foot clearance. Now, I wanted to rest my own wounded leg as much as possible. So just nimble and quick, I dodged the once-alive humans. And all while taking a Probar and enjoying peanut butter, chocolate chip flavored oats for an on-the-go treat.
When disaster had first struck, I had just wanted to not die. Things have improved since then. I figured out a thing or two. My goals have gone from “don’t die” to “survive.” I hope if I play my cards straight, I’ll one day get to the “Live happily ever after” stage of life. My nagging worries were far from what they had been only a few weeks ago. Before, I was worried Trump might become president. I was worried that I might be too clingy of a girlfriend. I was worried that I may never finish a novel and thus never become a “true” writer. I was worried that I might be stuck living in a basement crawlspace forever and never really actually feel like a “successful adult.”
Now my nagging worries were…well, they were nonexistent. Now, I don’t have worries. I just have…instincts. Food. Water. Shelter. And…to bandage my leg up a bit so my leg can heal and my limp can get the fuck out of town.
Limps aren’t the best thing to have during a zombie apocalypse. Just kidding. There are no zombies in this end-of-the-world scenario. I know, kind of disappointing, right? Instead, there’s just…nothing and no one.
The lights flickered, and I froze. I crouched down a foot lower, my eyes searching the field of shelves and empty cash register posts. I walked passed a few magazines on display:
KIM KARDASHIAN - ANOTHER LOVER?
TOP 10 REVIEWED RUNNING SHOES!
10 TOUGHEST WOMEN Of 2016
10 WAYS TO MAKE HIM BEG FOR MORE
25 THINGS A WOMAN THINKS BUT NEVER SAYS
DONALD TRUMP AND HIS NOT SO PRESIDENTIAL ATTITUDE
None of it had really mattered to me before. Somehow it made me just a little bit happier knowing that now none of it mattered period.
I made it to aisle 14. Bandages, gauze, Neosporin… I finally did what I had been dreading and looked at my leg for a full examination. It wasn’t as infected as I thought it would be. Most of the blood was dried up or packed in with rocks and debris. I took another look around the empty grocery store, and once I saw that the coast was clear, I sat down and started puling out the loose gravel that had been embedded into my leg, using some tweezers I conveniently found only an aisle over.
After an amount of time passed, I ripped open the packages of antibacterial spray, another antibacterial gel and some gauze. I tended to my leg to the best of my ability. The pain was renewed after seeing the wound, but the fact that my entire calf was bandaged more intricately and excessive than any mummy I had seen at the British Museum years ago, made me feel like I was going to make it OK. That I was hurt, but I was on my way to healing…and that I was tough.
As money didn’t really amount to anything, given that there were no cashiers still alive, I walked right through the check out line. I didn’t miss waiting in line for a second. However, I did miss that interaction within the transaction before these cashiers had died.
“Did you find everything alright?”
“Oh, I think so. Thanks. How’s the day going?”
“One of those days, huh?”
“I get off work soon.”
“Well that’s good.”
“Do you have a club card with us?”
“Perfect. . . Alright then. Have a nice day.”
“You too. Thanks, Billy.”
From what I could recall, most conversation went like that when my shopping came to a close. I tried to always use their names in conversations. When I had used to serve tables, when people used to be alive and eat at restaurants, that is, I had always felt like a servant or like some tool or object that was there only to serve lunch and dinner. Beyond that, my existence didn’t matter.
But sometimes people were kind, of course. And other times, even if they weren’t kind…When they used my name, it yanked me pleasantly back to reality. The reality that I had a name just like them, was human just like them, that this one meal they were being served was just an hour or two of our lives that consisted of so much more.
I walked back through more double doors. No eggs and milk. No granola and bacon. No tampons and chocolate. Just bandages for now. Just bandages. The condensation floated in front of my face whenever I exhaled once again. The chill made me feel alive. The temperature was almost an energy.
Walking to my car, I remembered the kind of energy I felt when I fell in love. I remembered how I could laugh and kiss and touch and ride the ferris wheel all day long without a meal and never feel hungry. I remembered how I could run and jump and skip and roll and lay and move with his body for days without fatigue. New love, in that way, was kind of like the cold.
I stopped in the parking lot that was mostly empty except for a few scattered cars that had been abandoned in a panic weeks ago.
I was alone.
There wasn’t anyone to love anymore. There was no one to love me anymore. And that was sad to think about, especially because I am such the romantic. But, it’s really all about how you look at it.
Instead, I tell myself that there’s no one here to feel like you’re not enough. There’s no one here to break your heart, and there’s no one here to lie to you. You don’t have to wonder if he returns your feelings. You don't have to be afraid you will become boring. You don't have to hope that this could go the distance.
No one is here to take you for granted.
It’s just you. And all you need is to take care of yourself:
Food. Water. Shelter.