Escapism. Humans are fundamentally wired to crave escapism as part of the human condition. Sam pondered this as he wandered through the artificially lit aisles of the supermarket.
The cereal aisle was perhaps the best aisle. Brightly colored boxes of loops, squares, and puffs lined the shelves — meticulously arranged. Toucan Sam. Tony the Tiger. Frankenberry. He watched as boxes of Cinnamon Toast Crunch and Cocoa Puffs left the shelves and filled the carts of exhausted, executive parents — to be taken home to their fat, noisy children.
As he lifted a box off the shelf, Sam imagined himself in the shoes of a dilapidated father.
Enter; the patriarch — defeated by his superiors and battle-worn from a corporate war — to a house devoid of tenderness. An ornery, spiteful, and nagging wife (enter; the sparring matriarch) and a three-foot banshee. Weary and suffocated in the ecru-toned gallows, there stands a man who left the box of cereal in his plebeian suburban minivan as his family tightens the noose around his neck. Exeunt– act one, scene one — the curtains fall.
An intermission for a dying man.
Sam wheeled his cart, the cool air enveloping him as he passed the rows of carefully placed lemons and watermelons. The fruits and veggies aisle — tailor-made for modernistic yogis and those ailed with a health insurance deficiency.
He eyed the slender, statuesque woman clad in a short, purple dress. Her fingers wrapped themselves around a clementine — as she searched for one that was perfectly spherical. In her shopping basket sat a tackily packaged bottle of cheap champagne and a deluxe pack of Camels.
Sam envisioned himself in her perceived life. An artist, a starving one most likely, celebrating a menial victory. Skin like satin, her long legs shimmered under the harsh, white, grocery-store lighting.
An appealing woman — the singer, the painter, the writer — the layman’s supermodel, shutting the dingy door to the darker side of town. She’s safe now. Cocooned in her essence, she thrives as she pops the cork off the champagne and lights a cigarette. A toast for completing a masterpiece, signing a record deal, or writing a book.
A toast to the unwelcome wandering hands and fractious comments — for they have paid off with the most saccharine of fruits. Sam dwelled in her four-inch heels, craving her life the way she craved the perfectly spherical clementine. A life of artistic voyeurism, cigarettes, and short dresses.
A muse and artist in a haven of sex, shallow parties, and mediocre deals.
As Sam wheeled his shopping cart through the aisle of alcoholic beverages, he noticed a couple laughing as they set a bottle of Merlot down in their cart. Young and beautiful, not yet corrupted by the perils of the world. They were all over each other, head-over-heels in love — expressions not yet dour, hands intermingled and not yet separated.
It had been a while since Sam had witnessed pure, unadulterated love and here it was out in the open under the atrocious lighting of the supermarket.
Sam smiled to himself — there was nothing more reassuring than young love. Aretha had passed on long before they could fully embrace their lives together, and yet Sam couldn’t help but place himself in the couple’s stead.
Tickled pink and eager to forge their own utopia of romance — they would stumble into their home, tipsy from the wine and giddy off each other. Lips come together and the clothes fall away into a puddle on the floor. Sweet and tender — the mingling of bodies. Hands trail across her thigh as a gasp escapes her lips, and he crumbles with every thrust. Accelerated and desirous — the coalescence of forms.
Her dexterous fingers trace his lips; a momentary lapse and transcendence of consciousness as they cascade into euphoria. Oh, the boon of being young, dazzling, drunk, and orgasmically in love!
The couple giggled as they wheeled their wobbly cart toward the cheeses — mumbling incoherently to each other and Sam reluctantly pushed himself out of his Aretha-brimmed reverie.
As Sam made his way toward the checkout counter he felt as if he’d traveled to the moon and back. Lavish brunches, tacky photoshoots, intense fucking, adolescent rebellion, and detrimental decrepitude. Sam had escaped the shackles of mundanity that weighed down all of humanity.
Sam Jenkins was a ghost — dead and irrelevant. No one believed in him and he wasn’t quite sure that he did either.
Enter — the has-been who was truly a never-was — a hunched over husk of a man; a staunch driver to the grocery store in his beat-up, pathetic excuse of an automobile.
Exeunt — the hollow man. Enter — a Latin lover, a millionaire, a kindergartner, a professor — shapeshifting under the awful lighting of the supermarket. The fruits. The cereals. The meats and cheeses. The wines and liquors. Everything goes into a shopping cart — yogurt, lemons, chicken breasts, canned beans — but nothing ever leaves.
The rickety cart is wheeled all around the store in infinite circles, like a swimmer completing laps. Carting, (as Sam Jenkins phrases it) becomes an Olympian task. A mantra that focuses on a pointless existence. A voodoo sentiment that grasps at a Shangri-La. The humdrum and clandestine search for a ripe tomato in a pile of shitty ones, under atrocious, man-made lighting.
Sam never purchased anything at the grocery store though, like a therapist, he’d make his deposits at the beginning of the month. He just dropped in for sessions every morning. The checkout counter was a daily dose of vitamin temporary- farewell.
The bough breaks and the baby crashes onto the floor below.
Sam dragged his feet and dreaded the awful, dirty automatic doors.
Exeunt — the Latin lover, the prolific billionaire, the supermodel. Enter; the phantom silhouette of a man that once was — opening a creaking door to an apartment laden with a single, ratty armchair.
Scene! The curtains fall.
You know less about Sam Jenkins and more about the perils of escapism than you did at the beginning of this monologue.
Cover image by Bernard Hermant on Unsplash. The copyright of this piece belongs to the author of this literary work.
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