On the scent
“Yes”, Uta said, “Yes. What are we searching for?”
“A direction for your life”, Cleo answered, “but for now I’d be happy if we found the coconut milk.”
The petite, mousey woman in oversized flip-flops waddled between the aisles. “Yes”, she eventually repeated Uta’s meaningless moan, “Yes. It’s not here.” Uta looked around. “Did you check the aisle to our left already?” “Which left?” “Every left, if need be.” Both of them were convinced that her counterpart could not tell left from right, and both of them being ambidextrous didn’t facilitate the identification of the culprit behind their continued disorientation. Cleo and Uta went silent to look at each other with this irritated expression that only develops in intense intimacy.
“What do you mean, ‘A direction for your life’? That’s just – shouldn’t we simply go to this small Asian supermarket round the corner?”
“No. I saw it here, and it’s much cheaper.” To make it seem as if she was hot on the scent, Cleo grabbed something placed much too high on the shelf for her to recognize, and then lowered the accidental mustard jar to her eye level to scrutinize it with an interest similar to that her friend surveyed the entire aisle with. It had escaped both of their memories why exactly they wanted to buy coconut milk. “It’s much cheaper, and ‘A direction for your life’ because your life is an aimless catastrophe.”
“I don’t care about a one or two dollar difference, and I wouldn’t want to switch places with you either.”
“They also have larger portions than in the Asian supermarket”, Cleo reasoned half-heartedly. She had started to read the nutritional information provided on the jar for real and realized it was full of sugar. After ten seconds gone by quietly, she put the jar into the empty cart Uta had been pushing for half an hour already.
“What for?” Uta was skeptical.
“For us. To eat.” Cleo disappeared in the next aisle to not look idle, whereas she already pondered what to do with the mustard for dinner.
Uta endured this for a while before she approached a pimply boy restocking a shelf to ask where to find the product they were ostensibly searching for. He silently pointed to a small area on top of a nearby shelf on which a row of small, brown cans sat unremarkably. They were no bigger than in the Asian supermarket and just as expensive. Uta put two or three of them, she didn’t pay attention, into the cart next to the mustard jar that annoyed her somehow, then pushed the still rather empty cart with the hand she estimated she had used less today while leaning on the handle with her other arm and slouched towards the sweets section. Cleo wasn’t there yet, but Uta knew she’d appear in just a moment.
She didn’t come. Uta made use of those fallow five minutes to stare at all the sweets she couldn’t pass without having a bad feeling in her tummy as a child. It was even worse in the present, albeit a different kind of bad feeling. She had just grabbed a bag of black licorice wheels when her phone vibrated against her hip. The message on its screen surprised her so little that she was somewhat perplexed:
I’m at the checkout line. You have the wallet. What takes you so long?
Uta didn’t even sigh dramatically. She threw her mobile into the cart, between the coconut milk cans, the licorice and the mustard jar, and headed to the checkout. An irritated cashier greeted her, Cleo was first in line, and some people had already queued up behind her.
Ashamed and wordless, Uta put her items on the still conveyor belt on top of what Cleo had spread out there before: zucchini, spaghetti, a garlic bulb, shallots and a glass of honey.
“What for?”, Uta asked out of reflex. Cleo shrugged. “For the mustard.”
Uta nodded. That made sense.
Their purchase was more than three times as expensive as they had intended and had taken more than an hour. Everything went as expected.
It was already dusk outside. The sky was too cloudy and dark for a visible sunset and the air felt dull and cold. Uta riled herself up into a fit about not having shaved her legs recently, and how her stubbly goose bumps rubbed against the fabric of her jeans. It hurt. Uta extensively complained about this phenomenon. Cleo looked at her sympathetically. She was also cold and her legs were equally unshaved, but she wore a skirt. Her legs didn’t itch. Only her toes grew increasingly strained for carrying her oversized flip-flops, a phenomenon she didn’t feel like complaining about.
“Ah, shit”, Uta suddenly interrupted herself when they had come to a halt in front of a red pedestrian light. “We stole the cart.”
Cleo looked at her friend in profile, and it slowly dawned on her that Uta indeed still pushed the cart. She smiled, and when it stopped to amuse her, she returned to stare at the little red traffic-light man.
They stood there patiently for half a minute. Not a single car or bicycle crossed the deserted junction. “What are we waiting for?”, asked Uta.
“A miracle”, Cleo replied, and then, to sabotage her beautiful coda, added: “I think.”
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