By Sean Thor Conroe - Jan 20, 2020
Got into a thing with the Fresh Grocer lady over coffee filters.
It honestly wasn’t a biggie, but why say they’re on sale if they aren’t, all I’m sayin’.
She was like This muhfucker. What aisle.
I told her what aisle and we went and checked. Together.
Well we started to, but then she told me not to follow her when she noticed me following her.
I was like Aite, fasho, putting my hands up. Like I’ll hold it down. Man the reg’.
When she came back and said No du’, they ain’t on sale, I snapped.
That’s why I tried to come with! I said. To show you they are.
So we checked, actually together this time, she hemming and hawing the whole way.
Honestly can’t remember whether they were or weren’t, but I’ll never forget that incident. It connected us. It marked the start of a long, fruitful, and strictly nocturnal friendship.
Too fucking cold out.
Too fucking cold!
I balaclava-d up and put my head down, weaving through a herd of incoming undergrads.
Not I; but they, very much so by the looks.
I’d started shopping at 2 a.m., and the pod I listened to while shopping was almost through, so had to be 3 damn near.
Right before I hit play again, one of the undergrads yelled “Water! I need water!” and another yelled “Lacy! You can’t drink that!”
Caught a glimpse of Lacy squatted like she was pissing, chugging from a 2-gallon guy on display in the vestibule there, laughing and spilling most of it, stance wide so it missed her feet.
Takin’ a piss.
Takin’ a piss in the Fresh Grocer!
Pulled my Nike Dri-Fit snapback I found in the street down low, over my balaclava, under my hood. Unlocked my bike and got to walking.
My thing lately was sticking to 41st.
Walking down 41st and only 41st, whenever possible.
Doing so was how I managed to leave my house.
41st was my block.
Forty one hunned.
Fuck you, high 30s UPenn motherfuckers with your dorms and well-insulated jackets and bike cops and senses of purpose.
Eat all the dicks.
And you, mid 40s kombucha-guzzling hippies with your communal housing and fermented foods and jars and senses of purpose.
The fuck y’all know about 41st Street
That shit ain’t even straight.
It zigged east a half-block at Market, zagged west a quarter block at Walnut, and was paved for shit all along.
Ran one way one block and the other way the next.
Wasn’t respected as a thru street.
But walking it.
Kept things interesting.
Turned on Postmates and started unloading groceries, back at the spot.
The lights were out and Roomie’s bike was gone, which meant he was at the wifey’s.
Probably cuddled up, spooning.
Netflix auto-playing atop their shared covers.
Just like the rest of the simps: accepting affection from others to mask the pain of themselves.
One pound Russet potatoes ($2) on the counter, in the corner. One pound cooking onions ($2), next to that. Seven-grain soft white pre-sliced loaf ($2) and Bustelo tin ($4) in the cabinet, above. And eggs ($1.50), Vermont sharp white cheddar ($1.69), and bag of clearance, overripe avos ($1) in the fridge.
Got a ding right when I least expected it.
Right when I’d forgotten I’d logged on.
When I’d settled into the couch and opened YouTube.
Pizza spot in south.
South of Snyder south.
Hit accept before fully considering the logistics.
This was my life now.
Was it even open still.
Would they even be awake still by the time I got it to them.
Would my prepaid Postmates Fleet credit card even work, like it hadn’t been lately.
Were my thoughts as I huffed it—wheezed—across the Schuylkill.
Mellow but popping still somewhat, somehow, once across.
People still out tryna fuck or get home or not get home just yet.
Folks passed out on cardboard, in nooks, on Market approaching City Hall.
Could feel the Under Armor rubbing against the rash below my right pec, extending into my right pit.
Shoulda Vaselined that bih.
Forgot to Vaseline that bih.
Gotta remember to!
For now, less upper-body, side-to-side movement.
Yelled Yo fuck your lights! as I ran my third red and skrt-ed right down 16th.
Loudly I think but hard to say over the Kodak blaring in my balaclava-compressed earbuds, wedged deep into my earholes.
Gassed by the time I arrived at the pizza joint.
Right at their 4 a.m. closing time.
Drunk folks huddled out front, inhaling slices off paper plates.
Mopping going on, inside.
Retrieved the package from the bada-bing bada-bang mobster types working counter.
Guzzled down the cig roach I’d stashed in my pant-leg roll, while waiting for the drop-off location to load, side-to-side shimmying to keep warm.
They didn’t tell you the drop-off location till after.
How they got you.
One of the girls in the outdoor pizza-eating crew eyed me from beneath the fur of her parka, through the glitter/tears of her eyes/lashes. Chomping with her mouth open.
Or maybe not tears.
Maybe it was just cold.
I don’t know.
I looked away, but understood her gaze.
Who tf is this guy.
Why is he here now.
Babe, I’m right there with ya!
My whole vibe, of a sudden, seemingly: so serial killer-y.
When did that happen.
Feel like it had to have been fairly recent.
Feel like it can’t have always been like that.
Definitely wasn’t before—
Just devouring data, this app.
OK, 48th, little further than ideal.
But I’ll take it.
Took her a sec to come to the door; but she did, eventually.
Like she’d stayed in, couldn’t sleep, and got hungry.
Coulda sworn it woulda been a shitfaced bro.
Can’t guess ’em all, innit.
She was light-skinned but in a way that made me think college transplant versus intergenerational local.
Plus this block, Cedar, despite extending this far out west, was one of the whiter ones.
I worried she’d think I was considering overpowering her with my maleness, forcefully entering, and having my way with her—which I wasn’t considering, not even a bit, beyond the possibility of her thinking it—so I pulled down my balaclava, below my chin, to show my face, and removed my hat—before putting my hat back on since a bare-balaclava-d head looked weirder, I decided.
But she didn’t seem scared.
Not even a bit.
Hit me with a thanks.
Then closed and locked the door.
I shuffled down the porch steps a step at a time, back to my bike, looking at my phone waiting for my payout to load.
Three drops of snot dripped off the tip of my nose, one after the other.
ARTWORK: the shape of a dress, hibiscus (pen on graph paper, 2019) by Chelsea Cater