I walked into the King Kullen. It was bright, lit up like a sitcom, and empty. I was there for beer. I passed the fresh flowers that weren’t fooling anyone and walked onto the main concourse, feet clipping. It was me, the products, the surveillance cameras and some hum. The bread aisle was fragrant. Clear plastic rectangles full of split butter tops. Home Pride. I passed a huge poster of a smiling kid near the milk. The poster boasted of the nutritional value of King Kullen’s milk. King Kullen’s milk.
“Ha!” I thought.
I made a sharp turn and walked to the beer. At the case I was overcome with the options and couldn’t make any decision. I just stood there completely blasted for like, five minutes. Red-Tailed Hawks, American Flags. Beer and nature. Beer and patriotism. Dross dripped from the overhead speakers. Some mechanical beat and over it some false voice singing something like, “Don’t you feel so good.” And I just felt like complete shit. And I guess I stood there long enough, and I don’t know, maybe it was my paranoia but some girl who worked at King Kullen came over and started to clean the case, like, wiping down the beer shelves. So I picked some random beer that was at my price point and walked off.
There were no human cashier’s present so I went to the self checkout. There was a screen with a little cartoon person pressing a button and so I pressed the button. I scanned my beer, although it took me a minute to find the UPC code. And since it was beer, a little cartoon hand popped up on the screen, a pixellated palm telling me to wait. Out of a gray wall a gray door opened and a woman walked over, smiled at me, punched something into the computer at the end of the self checkout aisle and nodded. I nodded back. She was allowing me to continue my purchase, and so I did.
An odd pride settled over me. I walked near the doors and they slid open. Effortlessness everywhere. I left King Kullen with a girl who had just finished her shift. She was maybe 10 steps ahead of me and we were walking in the same direction. And I just felt like I was following her, even though I wasn’t. I was just walking to my car. I still felt, even though I was out of the store, that I was being surveilled. Surveilled and surveilling. I heard every sound in that lot.
I started the music in my car, and I drove to a house on a street.