A shop assistant told me off the other day for sitting on the floor in isle 6 at the supermarket. It’s against shop rules apparently, to sit down when you’re bored of searching for everything on the very specific shopping list you’ve been given by your obsessive aunt.
“You’re not allowed to sit here,” said the guy wearing an apron. His nametag was scratched but I could make out he worked at the fish counter as he smelt like as open tin of tuna that hadn’t been refrigerated. As far as I’m concerned, I’m not doing any harm just sitting here, minding my own business. I just wanted to assess my next move in this busy store and rest my legs in the process.
“Really, you’re going to have to get up. Where’s your mum?”
I suppose it’s fairly normal to assume that when a 14-year-old girl is sitting on the floor in a supermarket it’s due to her rebellious nature towards her mother who has most probably walked away in humiliation.
My reply was monotone, “She’s dead”.
After these words left my mouth I realised this could also be another presumed reason for my collapse on the supermarket floor. It could be that I’m inconsolably upset that my mother has died and due to my underdeveloped coping skills as a teenager, I’ve come to the supermarket to vent my pain and seek the help of strangers. This wasn’t the case for my sitting on the floor, I just wanted to rest my legs because when you’re 14 food shopping is boring. It’s most probably boring when you’re an official adult too (I’m not sure what age you can stamp yourself an ‘official adult’ as Aunt G still cries if we run out of digestive biscuits and she’s 58).
“Shit, I’m so sorry. Are you Ok?”
Am I Ok? I don’t know the answer to this question, I seriously don’t.
“Do you want me to call anyone? Does your dad know you’re here? I can call him from the phone in the back office”.
Wouldn’t that be incredible, if this guy could just call my dad using a special phone in the back office? Imagine if this phone was so miraculous it could dial into a part of my dads mind, a part of him so deep it’s heard nothing but a death tone hum since my mum died, 6 months ago. This phone could tap into his maternal psyche, wake it up, inform it that my behaviour has become so out of the ordinary that I’ve taken to sitting on supermarket floors. Undoubtedly his awareness of my current behaviour would draw him back to London, even if it’s purely out of curiosity (he’s a nosey bugger). Even if he wanted to go someplace else, like Dorset or Cumbria or the highlands, I’d happily jump on a train and meet him there. Dad always wanted to live in Cumbria. He had this idea about buying a farm, even though my mum was vegan. He said that he’d raise the cows with so much love that when it was time to send them off to slaughter, they’d be the happiest cows on death row. Mum was obviously disgusted by this idea but liked the idea of Cumbria so they’d often talk about moving there and buying an old farmhouse with plenty of cats and no cows. Dad still asked if he could have a shed to make cheese in, mum agreed. She later told me that he’d never actually do it, as he can’t even nail a banister to the staircase wall, even though she’s been asking for two years now. Her exact words were ‘how the hell is he going to manage sitting in a shed, churning cheese when he can’t even hammer a few nails into the wall… dumb idiot’. We never did have a banister. You also need cows to make milk but dad really was a bit of an idiot, most of the time.
I felt this was an appropriate time to explain my situation to a stranger. “My Dad’s living on a barge in France and he doesn’t own a phone. I suppose he could be anywhere by now but we’ll never know. Well not unless he sends one of those pigeons with a message tied around his neck but my dads never handled birds so he wouldn’t have a clue what to do”.
I didn’t move, I know I should have, just to break the awkwardness. The shop assistant who’s name I couldn’t make out, well he looked puzzled and rather worried I might cry or something. He smiled and nodded sympathetically but said no more to me. He beckoned to his colleague who was reducing the price of bagels with his red sticker gun.
“I think we have a situation here”.
This is not a situation.
I believe screaming in public is considered ‘not the done thing’ but I bet my whole £20 savings that many have contemplated, even fantasied about screaming the house down more than they’d like to admit. Lets say if you get to the post office and the queue is so long it’s out the door, then you see there’s only one member of staff in service and the parcel you’re posting is for someone who has their birthday tomorrow so you have to post it as you made them a promise. This scenario has never happened to me, however that doesn’t stop me from imagining it could induce a frustrated scream and maybe even some swear words for good measure. I was now beyond just resting my tiered legs during a shopping trip.
Maybe I should create a situation.
If I hadn’t felt like screaming before I was observed as a ‘situation’, I sure did now. I wanted to empty my lungs like they were full of lethal fumes and only death awaited if I didn’t release immediately. I could feel the well of rage filling up, my tears patiently waiting for the red light to flow purposefully down my cheek. Powerful electrical currents possessed my feet, pulsating, taunting me to stand up powerfully and swipe the shop assistant across the face with my right hand. My right hand was getting ready, preparing for war.
The shop assistants were not fuelling my battle imaginings; the sticker gun was not enforcing primal instincts to attack! One instructed, “I think we should get the manager over”
War had begun.
I crossed my legs and swung forward, hauling up my body in one heroic movement.
I am a warrior!
“She might not be right in the head”
I am a warrior!
“Kid, you’re going to have to leave the shop”
I am a warrior!
“Kid, say something, you’re being weird”
I am a warrior! Except I’m not a warrior at all, I couldn’t talk, my tongue felt bigger than my mouth and my right hand numbly remained at the side of my hip. I then did something that would make my Aunt G proud. Something that completely negated all the sadness that rose so abruptly inside of me. Something that pushed the rawness of my pain deep inside my tummy to live with the night terrors and panic attacks. I smiled at the shop assistants and picked up my basket, in one carefree motion.
“Where do you keep the tins of tuna?”