Miss Animal’s (Mis) Adventures in Philly, A Diary: Entry 2
tuesday, august four, two thousand fifteen
yesterday i ran out of bread. it looked as though i could use some eggs and honey, as well. so today, i resolved to go to the supermarket located a couple blocks down from my apartment. on the way there, my tummy grumbled, and in so doing charmed my higher senses. i had a few extra bucks, maybe i could get some cookies and condiments, as well…
i reached the supermarket, but before i could even get to the entrance, i was stopped by a rather earnest crack head waiving for my attention. she had on skin-tight jeans, a dark, stained tank top; while bright, neon shoes donned her feet. she wore what looked like a lock-chain around her neck, and kept bouncing around, shifting her weight between her excessively colored feet; scratching her neck with one hand; toting a dunkin’ doughnuts cup of ice water in the other. she stuck out her scratching hand for me to shake.
(“lord have mercy, i don’t even wanna know what that sticky is i just got all over my hand…”)
“hi, nice to meet you. what’s your name? listen. i got a baby to feed. ain’t got no money, and all my family’s died of cancer, you see, and i just…,” but a passing bus prevented me from hearing the rest of what she said.
“sorry, i don’t have any cash on me.”
“no. i don’t need no cash. see, i just need the formula.”
(“my goodness. this antsy bitch is some kind of ridiculous. what is this, some kind of secret formula? is she boris and natasha tryina concoct rocket fuel? i mean she hardly needs it. she’s already made it to the farthest reaches of space…”)
“yeah, formula. that baby formula. comes in a blue can. i need two. it’ll cost ‘bout $15.75. and my whole family’s died of cancer. ain’t got nobody to help me out. i need that formula.”
“oh, baby formula!”
(“well, she does have an uncharacteristically big belly for a crack head, so maybe she really did just have a baby. i reckon she isn’t lying. that and she isn’t asking for straight cash- it’s just baby formula, after all. i don’t really need cookies and condiments, anyhow. i can spare $15.75…”)
“aight, lead the way.”
“we gon’ hafta wait in line at the cashiers. they keep that formula locked away. people keep tryina steal it. people ain’t no good. i tell ya. here. let’s get in this one.”
as we waited in line, a voice came over the loud speaker, “attention: our ebt system is down. we can only take cash, debit, or credit. i repeat, our ebt system is down. we cannot accept ss cards at this time…” of course, the lady in front of us was paying with ebt.
“oh. no. the ebt system is down. ain’t takin’ nothin’ but cash and debit. you got cash or debit? that’s all they takin’. cash and debit.”
“yeah, i’ve got debit.”
“oh good good. they only takin’ cash and debit.”
while the lady in front of us pondered her options, the crack head grew impatient. she slammed her dunkin’ doughnuts cup of ice water down on the conveyer. “i ain’t got time for this. i gotta get this formula. then i gotta get to the hospital. i’ve got metal staples in my head. right in my head. and when the sun hits them, shew we! it’s like lightnin’. you see?” she parted her hair slightly so i could see her metal staples. all i saw was matted hair. “all my family’s dead, you see. died of cancer. and i ain’t got no help. when all your family’s dead, you need some help, right?”
“exactly. that’s what i’m sayin’. i was beginning to think i was the only one… but i gotta get to the hospital. right after i get this formula. i wish this lady would hurry up. i gotta be there at five. see these staples? they gotta go. i’m gonna get ‘em removed. i can’t be out catchin’ ‘em in the sun. this heat! this heat! it’s like lightnin’. there was a situation, see. me n’ my boyfriend got in a fight. had to get these damn staples in my head. but they gonna go. gotta get there by five.”
the lady in front of us decided she would wait out the storm until the ebt system regained power. “oh nah nah nah. i ain’t waitin’ ‘round for this. i gotta get that formula. i gotta go. is there someone in the next line over?” she picked up her cup, took a slurp, then slammed it back down on the conveyer. she then got on her tippy toes, and leaned this way and that, on top of every surface space afforded her tiny frame by the conveyer; trying to take a peek at the next line over. “shit. stay here. ima go look around. there’s gotta be another one. i can’t be waitin’.”
Ignoring the obstacle presented by the man waiting behind us, and with the effortless grace of a weightless gazelle, she bounded around the corner of the magazine rack; as if the laws setting this world in motion did not apply to her in the slightest measure. within about two seconds she popped her head back around the rack. “come on, what’s your name. i found one. i found one. get over here. quick!” i followed her about five rows down.
(“my goodness, she is one quick little crack head.”)
“aight. here we go. this needs to start movin’ faster. i gotta get this formula. i gotta get this formula and- oh shit! shit lady! you smell real good! what’s that you’re wearing?! it smells real good!”
the woman in front of us, clearly tickled, turned around and said, “oh thank you! i don’t even know what it is. i got it a long time ago. it’s one of those old perfumes, i guess.”
“oh it smells real good. what’s your name! get over here and smell this lady! come on! sniff her smell!” i could tell the crack head wasn’t going to let it rest, so i leaned in and sniffed the lady.
“oh why yes ma’am. you do smell real good.”
when i acquiesced to her demands- when i satisfied her urgent need for me to sniff the woman in front of us- the crack head returned her attention to the pressing matter of time’s sluggish tick. anxiousness billowed and swelled within her, and spewed over her brim as powerful thrusts of machine-like limbs set on a mission to maintain control over herself and the situation, as a whole. in ferocious syncopation with an ignited internal metronome, she slurped and slammed, slurped and slammed, slurped and slammed her dunkin’ doughnuts cup of ice water; the downbeat of which was measured by the sassy shuffles of her bright, neon shoes.
“here ma’am, lemme help you move your cart,” as she pushed the cart of the lady in the front of the line forward; who had yet to even pay. “here ma’am. lemme help you move your food,” she said to the lady who smelled real good; because three inches on the slow moving conveyer made all the difference. “see. i like to help people. it’s rare these days.” she gave me a wink, then leaned in, “these people are too damn slow. move. it. a. long.”
after a few more sassy shuffles, slurps, and slams, we finally arrived at the cash stand. the crack head ordered her two cans of formula, and the cashier went to the locked display case to retrieve them. when she returned to ring them up, “that’ll be $31.78.”
(“so much for bread, eggs, and honey… damn it.”)
finished with our business, the crack head and i made our way out of the supermarket. “thanks. thanks so much, what’s your name.” then, immediately upon reaching the fresh air, she combusted, and took off like a rocket- schpewwwww. gone. in a flash, she was half way down the block, her little legs sassin’ their way through the crowd by means of those bright, neon shoes; swingin’ her bag of baby formula back and forth, “this heat! this heat!”
i moseyed on home, broke and grocery-less, and went straight to the bathroom to wash the mysterious sticky off of my hand.
(“note to self: don’t catch eyes with crack heads at the supermarket…”)
Copyright Keli Birchfield 2015