There Are No Pan-Asian Supermarkets In Hell/ So You Can?t Buy Golden Boy Peanuts
The television is on. My wife is sitting beside me. Our plates are on the low, short coffee table. Three lamps are on. The last cycle of the dishwasher, before dry, rattles away in the kitchen. My wife has her eyes down. The television glares without her. Nighttime invades and occupies the sliding glass doors, the balcony. Three lamps are on; the kitchen light is on; the dining-area light is on; the hall light is on; one lamp in the study; two lamps and my wife's new plastic chandelier in the bedroom.
We glow and glower.
My wife reads a textbook. Her eyes focus downward with force and ambition. In her right hand she holds a green highlighter. On the edge of the couch she has lined up three additional pens, all highlighters: orange, yellow, pink. The couch is a deep green with blue fibers. It is more of a loveseat than a couch.
The television has just paraded an advertisement for dish soap. The lovely hands of a model. The cheerful smiles of a family. Now a young couple sits on a beach with their arms around each other: solidarity, peacefulness, an investment company. An investment company for the young. But my young wife will not, does not, look up.
This, I tell her, is how we will save our future earnings. My wife is unconcerned. She does not respond. Does she hear me or are my pleas so vile to her now that she blocks them out with purpose? Before the dish soap ad there was a notice for cough medicine. Do we have that? I asked her. She as now did not reply. I wanted to get up and check the cabinet in the bathroom. But the advertisement for dish soap caught my eye and made me stop in my tracks.
I have been alive for nine thousand one hundred fifty-six days. I have seen somewhere upwards of sixty thousand eight hundred and seventy advertisements. Every day of my life there has been something vital that I have neglected to buy.
Dish soap. Hand soap. Face wash, back wash, deep pore cleansers and moisturizing, aloe-infused concoctions. Shampoos, conditioners. Color treatments. Scrubs. Toothpastes. Every way to keep your body clean. Toilet paper. There are five major brands of toilet paper and then there are the minor brands and then there are the store brands. Shaving creams and razors: compatible and non-compatible models, disposable heads, disposable bodies, battery-operated vibrating blades. Electric toothbrushes.
A vital world exists that, every day, is denied to me by my own ineffectuality.
In the supermarket, on Monday, I had to choose between tomatoes in a plastic bag, tomatoes in mesh, free tomatoes and tomatoes on the vine. Milk whole, skim, one percent, two percent, half and half, cream; butter salted and unsalted, margarine, substitutes of every variety; every variety of cereal and frozen breakfast. Magazines or tabloids. Newspapers. I did not choose. I purchased the whole mess. I took it home.
The books I read are bestsellers--but is the term laudatory or derogatory? Will it tap me into the will of the masses or will it stunt my mind? And should the bestseller be fiction or non, hardcover or soft, romance or mystery or self-help? What is the true lasting value, what investment is involved, in the hardcover book?
My wife with her textbook and her highlighters discriminates indiscriminately, assigns careless meanings to things and harbors her own resentments and grudges. It’s fine, she will tell me. This is all we need. This is good enough. This brand of dish soap that, in three hours, I will discover through the hearsay of the television to be improper and inappropriate for everyday use. Our heartburn medicine that is better than the leading medicine, but that still does not cure or even relate to my gas pains. The outdated and boxy automobile than uses more fuel per mile than the newest model Sports Utility Vehicle, which, I’m told, can double as any kind of car I need, motorcycle included.
And she, my wife, her eyes on her textbook, her hand motionless with its pen, her legs curled beneath her, her feet clad in old black socks, her pants torn at the knee and frayed at the cuffs, her drab shirt buttoned over her ineffective and unappealing brassiere, her glasses scratched and plain, her lipstick faded, her nail polish chipping already, her wristwatch two minutes slow, nondigital, noncalculating, the leather already wearing. She is here beside me.