Even homebodies have to eat, and though I was already pretty agoraphobic by that point, grocery shopping was the one venture into the outside world I took pleasure in. Of course, it had to be done around 1 or 2 in the morning when there were few people around, and on Saturdays it seemed that everybody was downtown, yelling and puking vodka into trashcans or doing God knows what else and not at all interested in crowding me in the soup aisle.
Because of my condition I was never any good at dating, which to me was just one terrifying public frolic after another- movie theatres and mini-golf and bars and malls and restaurants- nowhere I ever wanted to be. I couldn’t imagine trying to get to know someone while having to politely excuse myself to the restroom every ten minutes to breathe into a paper bag.
But loneliness affects us all, and the few attempts I did make didn’t last long. People tend to get some shifty ideas about you when you’re always inviting them to your place as a first date, as well as the second and third. Sitting on opposite sides of the couch apparently bores men very quickly. I guess I saw where they were coming from, so I joined this dating website and made sure I specified: “Looking for a grocery shopping buddy.”
I didn’t think it was an odd request; I’ve seen much weirder things. Most of the men I interacted with were curious, thinking perhaps it was some sort of joke, but a few agreed to the date, with mediocre results. These turned out to be more along the lines of me shopping while they walked alongside my cart trying the same lines they’d use in a bar, pausing every so often while I squeezed avocadoes or sniffed candles. They didn’t even buy anything.
It wasn’t until I’d given up on the whole thing that I literally stumbled into Jeremy. There he was, 2:30 on a Saturday morning, in Cookie Monster pajama bottoms, loading one of those big 18-packs of paper towels onto the shelf under his cart. I didn’t see him crouching down like that when I turned the corner and ran right into him.
I’m sure you can imagine the scene. Just drum up something like what you’ve seen in your average rom-com: girl smashes into boy, boy comically rubs his head or elbow as girl feverishly apologizes. Boy insists it was his fault for buying paper towels in such quantities, that it isn’t good for the environment, that he’s heading to the housewares department to get some real dish towels right this minute. Girl snorts; it’s endearing, they chit chat. Play crappy music, fade to black.
Jeremy and I got along well once we discovered our secret mutual love of food and the process of buying it. Some nights we’d get stuff to cook a fancy breakfast, other nights we’d go all out decorating a cake or making sushi. When we’d been together a while it was more like boxes of hot pockets and cans of beans, but I thought it was mostly alright.
Until one day I sensed something was wrong- women can do that, y’know, we always know what’s up. I knew I was losing him but I wanted to know why and to whom so I followed him. I followed him in the middle of the day, through sunlight and traffic and the horribly stuffy world I try at all costs to avoid. I followed him straight to the Whole Foods downtown, parking lot full of people pushing carts and strollers, like little ants taking food from the hive. Jeremy was buying fruits and vegetables in the daytime, alone.