Sarah O'Connor

Writer – Playwright – Cannot Save You From The Robot Apocalypse

I go grocery shopping once a week now, not that I did it that often before but now, as the only not at risk person in my house, I do these errands. It isn’t a toll or anything, it just requires some more planning on shopping per week, knowing what to pick up and when, how much we’ll need before the next week. More thought is put into the grocery list now than it used to be.

When I went to the grocery store last week there was a line-up. Not a large one, not like the lines at Costco or Walmart, this grocery store is more out of the way so that even on a Saturday the plaza was empty. Though that may have had more to do with the other businesses in the plaza being closed versus the public’s grocery shopping needs.

It didn’t take long to get in and the other people in line were patient, which is more than can be said for some lines nowadays. We were all six feet apart, standing by the overturned buggies that marked how far we should stand from one another. A worker stood at the automatic doors and waved each person in as another person left the store, it was a good process. He wore gloves, I can’t remember if he was wearing a mask. It would make sense if he was though, most people do now.

When I was waved forward I waited for another clerk who wiped down a buggie for me with a Lysol wipe and walked into the store. I don’t know how many people are allowed in grocery stores anymore, it’s less than it used to be though, I’m not used to the emptiness, the quietness. Not that grocery stores are rowdy places, but I miss the busyness of it.

As I rolled around produce the emergency alert alarm sounded on the radio and myself and a few other customers looked up, like looking up would help us hear what was being said. I thought it might be a missing kid, that’s what I usually relate that sound with but it was about keeping social distance, about fines. When I checked my phone later I had a text message detailing it all out.

I got incredibly sad when grocery shopping. I felt my throat grow heavy and this weight just kind of sat in my middle, slowing me down. I don’t think people are panic buying anymore but some shelves are still empty, maybe more stuff is hidden in the back or just less shipments are coming in. Not enough to worry about, but because people aren’t buying as much as they used too. I walked past the freezers and saw bareness, I imagined the day when the freezers would be filled, when the aisles would be crowded, when we could walk past another person without stepping six feet back.

I bought avocados for my sister and struggled because I don’t buy avocados and worried I wouldn’t get one with the right type of ripeness. I squeezed the fruit and noticed a man waiting for me to move, so I grabbed two soft dark ones and wondered if he was worried by the ones I touched, if he’d wash his fruit once he got home because of me.

I can’t wait for the day when we can look at people, our friends, family, and strangers like they are people are not bombs again. We’ve all become Schrödinger’s cat, both infected and not at the same time, unknowable until it’s too late. When I was paying for my items at the grocery store I thought about when I would be able to joke with strangers again, look them in the eye, brush past them without the thought of getting myself and all those I love infected.

But until then we wait, in distance, and become nostalgic for the ordinary. Of crowds and pushing and noise, of community.


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