discount

Posted: December 27, 2019 in becky blake
Tags: , , , ,

The line of people waiting to pay at the pharmacy is so long we have snaked up the aisle, all the way to the water filtration pitchers and the giant chocolate Santas marked at half off. Far ahead, I can see the pre-cashier area with its more appropriately-sized impulse purchases: Tic Tacs, small bags of chips and magazines. There is so much distance between me and the person currently paying that he seems foreshortened – a tiny man positioned at the vanishing point of this hellish Saturday morning snapshot.

How many people do there need to be before another cashier is called? I wonder this as we inch forward, one angry person-sized click at a time. I am extra grumpy today and try to flip into stasis, a mode where useless time like this can be skipped. In stasis mode, I am not simply somewhere else in my imagination; I am actually nowhere. Sometimes, I wonder if these pauses might eventually serve to extend my life. Will this nowhere-time accumulate and add an extra month or two to my final days? I think about this quite a lot lately.

Finally, I reach the outskirts of the cash register area, then the fringe, then the penultimate position. I am so close. I can almost feel the outside air on my face, followed by the relief of sinking back into my couch with the drugs I need to override my PMS.

When the woman in front of me asks to check her lottery tickets, I lift my chin and look to the ceiling; I am a heron gulping down the wriggling fish of a sob. Soon. Soon. Soon. Breathe. Breathe. Breathe. One, two – 

On three, it’s me! I’m here! This is almost over.

I unload my basket onto the counter, then toss a package of M&Ms onto the top of the pile.

“Need bags?” asks the cashier.

“Yes, please.”

“Points card?”

“No.”

“Are you a senior?” she asks, and everything stops. I should never have come out of stasis for this interaction; I should have paid like an automaton.

“Excuse me?”

“It’s senior discount day. Are you a senior?”

I turn with a wide-eyed look to the woman behind me. I need a colleague in my incredulity, a fan of my outrage, but her face is a blank page, rather than a mirror. I turn back to the cashier. “I’m thirty-nine,” I say. “So no. I am not a senior.” Have I ever used this tone of voice before? It is scalding hot, and the cashier feels its heat, pulling back from me a step. She is sixteen maybe. Eighteen maybe.

“I’m sorry,” she says, defensive, “but I have to ask.”

No, you don’t! I want to shout. This is not the LCBO! It is not illegal for people under the age of 65 to buy dish soap and Midol and –

I consider pointing to the box of tampons she’s recently packed in my bag and asking her what she thinks they’re for. Instead, I tap my card to pay and she hands me the bag, cautious like she’s feeding a potentially dangerous animal – one of those biting llamas maybe.

“Thank you,” I say, my words a pointy stick; a stick that’s pointing to her mistake, then pointing again to make sure she sees it.

The automatic doors sigh open and I step out into the world feeling scuffed up like a price sticker on the bottom of someone’s shoe. Any bonus time I had accumulated to extend the end of my life feels like it’s just been spent. I look at my reflection in the window. Forty. Fifty. Sixty. Soon I will be there.

 

A two-time winner of the CBC Literary Prize (for non-fiction in 2017 and short fiction in 2013), Becky Blake’s stories and essays have appeared in publications across Canada. Her first novel, Proof I Was Here, was published by Wolsak & Wynn’s Buckrider Books imprint in May 2019.

Becky teaches creative writing at the University of Toronto’s School of Continuing Education, and holds an MFA from the University of Guelph. She is currently working on a second novel and a memoir-in-essays.

She can be found at https://www.beckyblake.ca/

 

 

 

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“Gutter to ocean…”

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