HARD LIGHT

By Jason Vowell

I have always hated supermarkets. They are way to bright. They are always filled with the general population you do your best every day to try to avoid. All there, crawling around like the primates that they are. A modern-day freak show under hard light.

Step Right up! Isle 13, right there next to the frozen Salisbury steak TV dinners is the filthy mouth mom beating some kid with green snot bubbling out of his dirty face. Screaming obscenities as the mullet clad drunken daddy watches stoically from behind the powdered macaroni and cheese pyramid.

Suddenly out of nowhere you are buzzed by the 600 pound woman in one of those little motor scooter shopping carts. The basket attached filled with microwave burritos, bottom shelf wine, and a ton of cat food. She flips you off as she put putts down the aisle, the rolls of her bedsore covered belly melting out of her bunched up and stained mumu. Her exposed thighs thick with cottage cheese, her legs painted with varicose veins thick as dying twigs reaching desperately for the sun.

My appetite escapes me. Things come into focus under the hard fluorescent lights of a supermarket floor.

There goes the abandoned and screaming retarded boy, right into the arms of the part-time security guard with a big fat gun on his hip and an itchy trigger finger. The dirty mechanic fondles the fresh fruit and vegetables with his grease coated hands. The pedophile stands silent next to the children’s bike jungle gym. The freckled face spoiled brat throwing a tantrum pushes a shopping cart full of potato chips into a towering paper towel display. Ultra absorbent wipes with a flannel clad mascot rain down on one of the numerous housewives trying to conceal black eyes.

All of them with their shopping carts full of the crap sold to them subliminally as they binge watch bullshit television shows. All of them falling for the scam. Eating food marketed to them so they get fatter and lazier. Ultimately spending more time on the couch watching more commercials. More time eating prepackaged processed fast foods. The circle of life.

Every time I end up in this place I wonder, are we the consumers? Or are we the ones being consumed?

I push my broken wheeled shopping cart through the blinding isles. Through row after row of cleverly marketed, indigestible, instant boxes of muck. Each plastic bag or paper box getting bigger and brighter to entrap our devolving attention spans. The race to buy the newest cola. The race to get that microwave pizza that taste just like delivery. The race to clog the arteries and overflow the landfills. All so convenient. The modern mans instinct to hunt being taken away.

The lines of the checkout twist and bend back into the isles like broken snakes. There are never enough cashiers to handle the hordes of zombies craving their next sugar rush. We all stand in rows, just like the boxes of cereal. The fifty different brands of ketchup. The novelty purple mustard. All empty calories. All staring into small phone screens where their profiles pictures showcase smiling bright faces.

Things look different under this hard light.

At the check out the elderly lady working for minimum wage asks if I found everything ok, I don’t know what to say so I don’t say anything. She has a crooked eye and I’m not sure which one to look into.

The hipster hypocrite with a clever haircut and retro glasses hands over the money. Paying for my heart disease, my diabetes, my fat gut, my slow death.

As I struggle to push my broken shopping cart through the endless expanse of parking lot I tell myself I should really go to the gym today, but I won’t. I hate going to gyms.

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