Chapter 22: Wal-Mart

I’ve always been a journal-er. Of course, when life gets really interesting, I have tended to drop the practice (although I’m proud to say I’ve been doing daily writing now for almost a year, for the first time in my life).

Digging through old journals, I have gone down a number of rabbit-holes, not all of them useful. I wonder if it makes sense to try to cobble together a memoir from these narcissistic ramblings, or if I would be better off setting all my old notebooks aside and starting from “scratch”, ie my equally spotty memories.

I’ve been reading Alain de Botton’s How Proust Can Change Your Life (He can. He really can…) and found this quote to be the perfect summation of my activities this month:

A book provides a distillation of our sporadic minds, a record of its vital manifestations, a concentration of inspired moments that might originally have arisen across a multitude of years, and have been separated by extended periods of bovine gazing. – Alain de Botton

I’ve been trying to write new things for you, but the past is too mesmerizing right now. My 22-year-old sporadic mind/body/soul complex was reassembling in a new and freakish way. Here is one inspired moment from my manuscript-in-progress. I’m up to 60,000 words. There’s a long way to go, and then a lot of editing to do. When I’m not doing this, you’ll find me in my field, gazing like a satisfied bovine (eating, fortunately, is back on my list of things I can easily do).

***

Chapter 22: Wal-Mart

This is hell.
Also known as Wal-Mart.
After a day spent listening to birds as I worked on Dave’s property, breathing in the wet, earth-scented air, it’s the last place I want to be. Lost in the bliss of movement and banter, I’d felt my heart expand with my lungs, my muscles taking new shape.
When I’d checked my phone at the end of the day, I had a message from Grace. She would like me to pick up her prescriptions at Wal-Mart. Scourge of the small town. Enemy of the worker. Warehouse of cheap, of disposable, of everything I would like to stand against.
But I love Grace, and she needs her meds, so I make the stop at the outskirts of Newport. There’s the ugly building, right up against the forest. Replacing it. Stop it, I tell myself. Relax. Why don’t I have a joint in the car? I could use a smoke for this.
I park and go in, wearily watching overweight people lumbering behind shopping carts. Despite my head being in the clouds, I still have about me that extra awareness that comes of working outdoors, a sharp jitteriness.
Thankfully, the line at the pharmacy is short, and soon I’m giving them Grace’s name and birthdate.
The bottles of over-the-counter drugs stare at me menacingly. The air is stagnant and sickly. The pharmacists are grey-skinned, weary, plasticized.
Britney Spears on the overhead speakers. While I wait, I walk the aisles of the pharmacy area. Bandages and pill organizers, celebrity gossip magazines, as-seen-on-TV garbage, all the candy Grace loves — and eggnog on a post-holiday sale.
Grace loves eggnog. I consider adding it to the cart, even though it’s the worst kind of calorie she needs. She’d do it for me, and I’d drink it, too — while feeling disgusted by the idea.
I grab a small carton. Life’s short, right? I’ve been feeding her so much kale. She deserves this.

Out in the parking lot, it’s just rained. The world is fresh. I drive toward Lincoln City, trying to get back to my post-work high. In the front seat, the eggnog taunts me. It says that I lost. It says that we’re all just looking for a bit of happiness, and Wal-Mart sells it at a post-holiday discount.

The house is too warm.
In the kitchen, I fling open the window and attempt to untangle my thoughts by pulling all the leftovers out of the refrigerator.
None of my recent creations appeal to me. Cooking has always been my release mechanism, a way in which I’m creative by necessity. Sometimes I feel as if I can’t eat unless I had my hands in it somehow — and with plenty of time to cook lately, I have a cornucopia of leftovers to enjoy on a given night.
But not this night. I’ve been burning five thousand calories a day and — when I’m working on the boat — vomiting up most of what comes in. How am I not hungry?
I know why. She wears baggy jeans and a bandana and I still think I can get away with playing it straight. Whether it’s love or lust doesn’t matter. They both flip the “Open” sign in my stomach to “Sorry”.
I put all the food back in the refrigerator and go to my room.

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