Written by John Andreula
Edited by Kodid Laraque-Two Elk
You hear coughing up the aisle you’re walking down. It’s coming from the blonde woman a little ways up.
You head down one of the adjacent aisles feeling like you dodged a contagion bullet. Immediately those videos you’ve seen of the wide and distant trajectory of sneezes and coughs from the internet and science class come to your mind.
You look down at your hands. They are gripping the red plastic handle of a shopping cart.
You realize you didn’t wipe off the cart when you entered the store, but that’s okay. You just washed your hands. You’ll just wash them again before you leave the store. You’ll do it again when you arrive at the next store, and a handful—pardon the dumb pun—more times during this post-apocalyptic trek into the world.
You ventured out for flushable wipes, chicken thighs, and whatever other asinine items you’ve put on your lock-down essentials list.
You check the list on your smartphone. This store didn’t have the wipes or the chicken, but they did have toilet paper. It wasn’t on the list and you didn’t need any, but you grabbed a pack anyway.
Everyone else in the store is carrying a pack. The store’s limiting one pack per customer. You may as well buy some just in case. Who knows how long the likely looming time of martial law will last?
You put the phone back into your pocket.
You realize it’s been a long while since you cleaned it last. Then you realize you’ve used it in every store while touching the shopping carts, gas pumps, and register touchscreens and keypads for the entire duration of the outbreak so far.
Disgusted, you shiver. You think about how many times the phone’s been up to your face as well over the same length of time. You’ll clean the phone with some alcohol-based lens spray when you get home.
You’re mind wanders. You think about the money you’ve been spending.
You’re lucky to have any money right now. You’ve just gotten the announcement earlier that day that your work and everywhere you consistently frequent has just shut down for the foreseeable future.
You recognize you’re not the only one who’s out of work due to your entire industry being shut-down. And yours won’t be the only industry that will be the last to come back from going dark when this whole pandemic panic blows over.
Now you reflect on how lucky you are to still have any money left to spend at all.
Wisely, you’ve been conservative with your finances in the past few years. You’ve saved and haven’t had to rely on credit, but your savings is rapidly depleting.
You could just charge all of this. You have plenty of credit. Get the one percent rewards and worry about the twenty percent interest and where you’ll get the money to pay for it all later.
You push the shopping cart up to the self-checkout.
You scan each item and place them into a bag. You pay using the same touchscreen and keypad that every other one of the diseased masses has used since the last time any store employee had the wherewithal to disinfect it. It’s past time to wash your hands again.
Once finished you carry the bags of items you didn’t come for and didn’t really need out to your car. After one more store and more of the same, you head home.
You survived your fifth day in a row venturing out to stores while everyone’s supposed to be self-quarantined and social distancing. You even survived the guy in the red car flipping you off when you yielded to him at the traffic circle. Surely you can survive all of this.
You park the car in your driveway and gather up the shopping bags and toilet paper. Now you can finally retreat into the safety of your home and your pajamas.
Your child greets you at the door. What a relief it is to see their beautiful face after experiencing the stress and anxiety of going out. You kiss them. They kiss you back.
You hug them and hold them tightly, like you’ll never let go. Your child sniffles and then gasps, “You’re choking me.”—Ahem.—“I can’t breath.”
You let go of your child and smile. They smile back at you. . .then they cough right into your face.