Nov 15, 2023, 06:24AM

Jules at the Supermarket

He wondered what day it was.

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Jules was dozing on the couch when his stomach growled. He rubbed his eyes, shifted his weight toward the edge of the couch and then rose. As his eyes adjusted, he saw the clock. 6:23 p.m. Time for dinner. He gingerly shuffled over to the kitchen, and opened his fridge.

“What the hell happened?” Jules spoke to the empty shelves.

A nearly empty plastic bottle of ginger ale. A leftover container of Chinese food. Two small yogurts in the top corner. String cheese. A jar of pickles. He opened the vegetable drawer. A withering head of romaine lettuce and two slender and wimpy carrots. Jules recognized it was time to head to the supermarket. He also recognized how groggy he was.

Fortunately, Jules found a package of coffee grounds in his cabinet. He started the coffee and went into the bathroom to wash his face.

He saw the post-it on the bathroom mirror and squinted through his glasses: “Reva and Becca—Wednesday 6 p.m. Neve, James, Travis Bickle—Thursday morning.”

He wondered what day it was. He found his phone. At least he’d plugged that in. Monday.

While Jules sipped his Costa Rican roast, he noticed Reva’s list of affirmations on the corner of the table. The pages were wrinkled. He needed to finish it by Wednesday for Reva.

He picked it up and read.

21. I look forward to a happy bright future.

Optimism, pessimism. What did it matter? Jules was tired of the future. He was happy to be alive today. Happy that he’d woken from his late-afternoon nap. Happy the girls would be arriving soon. Happy he wasn’t alone all the time. Happy the Sixers were on a winning streak. Happy he could still drive to Ralph’s and buy himself food for his empty fridge. It would’ve been bad for Reva to see his empty fridge. She was always offering to get food delivered to him and he was always refusing.

Jules sipped the coffee. One of his favorites, he let the coffee pool for a moment on his tongue. Costa Rican beans were different. The aroma was wonderful. A little cocoa, some hazelnut. He liked choosing his own beans at the market.

Jules finished his cup, put on his coat and walked down the steps, holding the railing, and out to his Camry. He was about to beep it unlocked, when he realized he’d forgotten his keys. He walked back inside and found them on the kitchen counter. Yeesh. He was sleepwalking.

He took another sip of coffee and went back outside, this time locking his front door.

Jules turned on his lights. It was dark after five now. No wonder he was sleepy. He drove the two miles down the hill, on the winding streets until he made it to the light. Ralph’s was one block away. Suddenly he wasn’t sure which way. He chose left and put on his blinker. When the light changed, he took the left and scanned the street for the supermarket. He didn’t see it and slowed down, still in the middle of the road. A car horn startled him. He began to panic, but put his foot down on the gas and kept driving, waiting for a spot to pull in and then turn the car around. Jules pulled into a lot with a dry cleaners and a gas station. He looked at the dashboard to see if he needed gas. Turns out he did!

Jules filled the tank and drove back out to the main street and turned back toward the supermarket. He parked the car. Before getting out, Jules sighed with relief. “Yowza!” he said into the darkness.

Once inside, the fluorescent lights, combined with the nap and the coffee, Jules was in a fugue state. As he strolled among the bananas and avocados, he thought of Allen Ginsburg’s supermarket poem. Jules had used it while designing English tests for 10th graders in Pennsylvania over 30 years ago. Ginsberg was in that magical fluorescence in Berkeley, 70 years earlier. Jules was 15, in 10th grade, when Ginsberg’s poem was published. Now Jules played the ghost. As Ginsberg, in the poem, called out Whitman’s ghost, hoping he might lead him out of loneliness.

Jules was in the market for a while, but he’d lost track of his shopping cart. It must be half-full, he thought. But where had he left it? Maybe in the soda aisle, when he bent down for ginger ale? Where was the soda aisle?

Jules began to feel overwhelmed. Where the fuck was his cart?

He grimaced and tried to hide his face from the couple of college kids picking out frozen pizza. He stopped and held the door to the freezer. The pints of ice cream taunted him. He closed his eyes and took three deep breaths. That helped a bit. Okay, try the soda aisle.

Jules walked out of the freezer aisle and searched for an employee with a black smock. He finally found one and raised his hand toward him. The employee saw him, nodded and then walked the other way. “Jeeezus!” Jules said out loud. He scanned the aisles. Paper towels, napkins and dog food. Nope. Cans of soup. Sauces. Nope. Chips and cans. Yes. Maybe he’d finally find the damn cart. He made his way to the sodas, and looked around. The cart was nowhere to be found.

Jules had to decide whether or not to keep looking for that cart, start over, or just give up.

He finally decided to buy a rotisserie chicken and call it a night. He’d come back tomorrow. Tuesday morning. A day before the girls arrived. 


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