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February 18, 2024

Friday night at the town’s grocery store

I’ve spent the day penning a love poem. I’m hungry, but nothing tempts me. Not even the Asian restaurant I always love to go to when feeling gloomy. I need dishwashing soap, healthy berries, a ripe papaya, a few slices of ham and, I can’t stop dreaming about it, a nice solid rib to hang my heart on. Aging alone is a very effective appetite suppressant.

It feels like I have always been alone, but I had my wonderful business as a partner. We learned together, worked together, developed new markets together, and I was ecstatic. Jumping from one ray of sunshine to the next, I was in paradise.

I need cream for my coffee. I drink so much of it! Every time I’m bored, I press the button on the Keurig. The hot liquid quickly refuels my mind. There is never any sugar in my coffee, and almost never any man on my mind.

The grocer’s fruit displays make me happy. I used to force myself to eat fruit, but today, I relish it, especially when I make a dinner out of it. I create beautiful colourful plates to which I add a serving of yogurt and keto granola. In the summertime, I often add a few edible flowers. It looks so pretty and it cheers my lonely heart.

I leave the pale pineapple pulp in the plastic jars behind me and move my cart towards a large table covered with desserts. My eyes devour the raspberry upside-down cakes, the chocolate ganaches, the pouding chômeur and the big new date cookies by Madame Labriski. Everything looks so delicious! Thanks, but no thanks. I no longer bury my sorrow in such sweets. I stoically embrace my reality as an obsolete old person.

I quickly make my way through the tea and coffee aisle. I don’t have a sophisticated palate for liquids. However, a very good friend of mine, an entrepreneur and creator of spice blends, recently gave me a bottle of rum called “L’Assemblée.” It’s a fine elixir flavoured with a blend of spices from my friend Catherine’s line of “LA PINCÉE” spices. I love it! I don’t drink it every night of course, but when my old friend the blues sits down to watch a movie with me, I enjoy a few sips. For a moment, it revives my dormant hopes.

In the frozen food section, I sift through old ideas again and again. Where has the best ice cream gone to? And the golden youth that was stolen away from me? All my words snap straight just thinking about it. Will I see the Baie-des-Chaleurs again, with its fire-red cliffs, its old sunken dock surrounded by eels with tiny sharp teeth? I went two years ago and was afraid of going into the freezing water.

In front of the frozen pizzas, my toes freeze. I open a large freezer door and then immediately close it. Even with boxes proudly featuring the handsome faces of celebrity Quebec chefs, I’m still tempted to say that all the good pizzerias are dead. I remember a time when I was crazy about pasta and pizza!

Where on earth are the frozen green peas? My granddaughter is coming over for dinner tomorrow night and I’m preparing her favourite meal, arakas (a Greek dish made with peas). In a saucepan, sauté small veal cubes with finely minced onions and crushed tomatoes. When the meat is tender, add small green peas, salt, pepper and loads of fresh (if available) dill. Let simmer on low heat until hunger orders the lid to be removed. Do I still have bread at home? Maybe a baguette from Première Moisson?

At the fish counter, the grey-haired man smiles at me. I like him so much, but his shiny wedding ring can still be seen under the fish scales. Seems to me like all the good men have already been harpooned. What have I done to deserve this misfortune? Seriously. I suddenly feel like I’m going to bawl: the cod counter is empty!
— “I promise you, I will have some tomorrow!” the fishmonger tells me, an apologetic look on his face.

I want to be consoled this evening. A few slices of ham in half a baguette could perhaps do the trick? Everything is blurry in my mind; all is empty in my heart. Will I ever stop proclaiming my lack of love? Wise men say that “what you focus on becomes your reality.” If I change my tune, will all the men be at my feet? It might happen!

Hanging onto my cart, I move slowly. In the spaghetti, linguine and rigatoni aisle, nothing strikes me as interesting; not even my old heroes, the handsome Stefano and Ricardo. To my right, the white sauces, to my left, the red ones. The sky is all white and hell all red. In the potato chips and soft drink aisle, a paunchy old man pats the big bags of chips. He looks over and smiles, and I respond:
— “Yes, yes! The Kettle sea salt potato chips are the best!”
— “It’s memory that goes first,” says the elderly man with a gap-toothed smile. “My mind even forgets the name of my wife’s favourite cookies.”

I skip the aisle with the pickles, olives and marinated veggies. Maybe I should grab a jar of beets as a side for my famous salmon pies I intend to make soon? The cans of salmon have been waiting for me in the pantry long enough. I realize that I’m definitely not as undaunted in the kitchen as I used to be. Is age throwing me off? Or is laziness flirting with me? My egg sauce is the best in the world. I’m hungry just thinking about it!

I stand in front of the BBQ chicken warmer, imagining my last hour: my body seasoned with hot spices, my breast a touch crispy, my thighs well-cooked and trussed together. I’m wrapped in aluminum foil and kept warm. Hungry mouths pass back and forth in front of the hot counter and, just like in my youth, I feel invisible.

We all end up at the check-out eventually, and I firmly believe that the bill with all our good deeds will turn out to be the least expensive one. And about my heart’s Romeo, maybe I should widen my hunting ground? I’ll drive out of town and browse the big box stores selling discounted clothing.

I dillydally and have fun.
These words drunk with sorrow
stretch out the hours with daydreams.
Who will take care of me on the other side?
Sometimes I feel afraid and cry in the aisles.
So scared that my fingers can no longer speak to you!