At the Supermarket
I have avoided supermarkets for three months now. The physio says it is very normal for people in my situation to become shop-shy – too much visual information to process, too many bright lights, the disorientating architecture of isles. But you must, she says, persist and treat your daily tasks as rehab. So today I am attempting a grocery shop. Hovering outside the entry, my heart flips, sweat pools on my forehead. No, I tell myself firmly, we are doing this I pick up a red plastic basket, sweep into the glittering tumble of sensory chaos. Logos and fonts vie for attention, some loud, plump, and brazen, some earthy and restrained. I prefer wrappers that less colourful and papery to touch, retaining some hush when handled. I avoid glitz and plastic like a bombast at a party. My basket has some items in it – I’m doing well. How many isles can I stare down without the spin beginning in my brain, my right ear ringing or my legs crumpling? Row upon row of isles stretch before me. I am bathed in sound, the chatter/clatter of shoppers, shrill scanners at checkout, muzak. I pass the deli, try not to retch at the pink hue of shaved ham, the salty, cheesy, meaty odours co-mingling that always remind me of public toilets, ghosts of menstruation, sweating groins – something heavy and faecal. Approaching the diary section, I’m in trouble; swivelling my head from side-to-side o eye rows of milk, vertigo begins. Suddenly I’m slightly out of body, my footing uncertain. My vision lurches and swamps, my limbs become weak. I stand still and look at the floor, a hot flush overtakes me. I keep my eyes lowered and try to centre myself by feeling my feet on the ground. I remain there for a while until I don’t feel like I’m falling off the highwire of my own existence. The basket in my sagging arm tilts.
my sweating face this triggering place my spinning head public dread these reddened cheeks unsteady legs, these rocking feet faltering hands my flicking eyes this raucous ear my quickening breaths this basket, laden