Doing the shopping these days, with my dodgy knee, is not an experience I much enjoy. Technically, me & B always do the shopping together; what usually happens is that B slowly trundles the trolley round while I whizz around ferreting out the goodies.
But at the moment, our roles are reversed; mindful that I have a very limited ration of daily walking, I skulk in a corner of the supermarket with the trolley, leaning on my stick, while B goes looking for stuff.
With none of my experience with supermarkets, he takes ages to locate anything. Which is why I was leaning on my stick in a corner of Morrison’s while B roamed the far aisles in a search for crumpets. Passing the time with people-watching, I noticed one person in particular.
Now, (probably due to Asperger’s) I’m very good at pattern-recognition and pulling conclusions from just a few facts. This perhaps explains why I occasionally get odd “flashes”; I see some stranger and almost instantly have a strong mental vision of them looking quite different, usually much younger. This shopper I found myself looking at was a middle-aged man – short (5’5″ or so), potbellied, greying longish hair tied back in a ponytail, fairly scruffy (but no more so than I was). He was wearing a very battered leather hat, the sort with a wide brim; it was stained and looked like it had been sat on far too many times.
And I had a “flash”: a young man – twenty or so – dressed in flared jeans, white cotton shirt, suede jacket; still short but now taut-bellied slim, moustached, bearded, long black hair flowing down past his collar; bouncing cockily along a street, grinning hugely, eyeing the girls. And proudly showing off his brand new height-of-fashion leather hat – snapping the brim, keeping it at just the right down-turned angle.
What, I wondered, would that handsome young buck have thought of his thirty-years-on self? That bent-down, scruffy aging man who shuffled through this glittery consumer paradise doing his boring, routine, everyday shopping? Who hadn’t got into 28-inch-waist jeans for twenty years? That old man who hadn’t done the “monkey-walk” for three decades? The old man who no longer expected young women to look at him admiringly, and who no longer even noticed the loss?
He’d come from the fish counter; now he stood for a few moments in front of me, pondering where to turn his trolley next. He had a case of beer, some bread, some tins, a bottle of tomato ketchup, a big packet of frozen chips. He never moved his eyes from his trolley, except to look at the shelves. His hat sat on top of his head at no particular angle; the brim wasn’t in any state any more to be satisfyingly snapped. I watched him turn down an aisle and stop before the toilet paper….
Then B came back from his hunting expedition, bearing a successful bag of two packets of crumpets. So we went to sacrifice my purse at the checkout.