It’s another beautiful day in the neighbourhood.
I took the long way around on my way to the store. It’s just two blocks from our apartment to the beach, and I made the mistake before of taking the trip when I was already bogged down by bags. Today, I went hands-free.
There were people about, perhaps what you might consider a normal amount in an ordinarily uncongested area. But this is Coogee Beach, and it was only a few weeks ago that I saw it packed to the gills.
People aren’t quite as quarantined as they are back home in the US, although the expert advice is similar. We aren’t really meant to leave the house for leisure. Grocery shops are among the few valid excuses to be out. And I needed eggs.
It felt a little risqué even taking the long route so I can breathe in some ocean air, but then when I got there I could see I wasn’t alone. The beach itself is cordoned off. No admittance whatsoever. But alongside the beach is a walkway. Plenty of spandex-clad girls and foreign couples take this track, to run, to walk, to get a little time in with the sun.
Alongside the track there’s a pseudo-park (read: grass) where people of all kinds sit and lounge. I pause for a minute to watch a man suspended upside down in a yoga handstand. Another pair of girls in short spandex lounge next to each other. Maybe they just finished a run.
I stop for a moment at the edge to take in the blue sky. The ocean itself is a beautiful color today, tonal blues that, once you look at the horizon, all seem to work in a unified gradient. Mother Nature is getting a long overdue break.
I’m wearing one of my favorite comfortable little black dresses and pink sneakers–an outfit that seamlessly transitions from at-home lounging to semi-put-together public attire. I note a Spanish couple walking toward me. My eye is drawn because the girl is wearing a bright red top and white shorts; a cute outfit for a quarantine stroll.
A deep breath into the salty air, a deep breath out, and I walk back towards the commotion of the streets.
I’m somehow so taken by revelry (or nostalgia of being outdoors) that I nearly walk straight past the market. I have to cross the street, carefully (looking right first, a counter-intuitive habit I had to form) and set myself back on course.
Someone is walking out holding toilet paper. I wonder if inside it will be mayhem, shoppers gripping and clawing to get their bathroom rations.
I hear Elaine Benes in my head: you can’t spare a square??
But there’s plenty to spare today. A shipment came in, I can only imagine very recently, and there’s a whole portion of the aisle stocked with toilet paper. There’s even a shelf in the front of the store promoting anti-bacterial wipes.
Have we mass-produced ourselves into abundance? Has the bulk-buying suddenly subsided?
No such luck, I realise when I approach the egg section. Not even caged-egg options linger on the shelf. Bummer.
I circle the store a few times. I’m new to the neighborhood, and I still haven’t quite formulated the map in my head of where the items are. Also, in Australia, some items are different, and some practices are different.
One major hurdle I’m still trying to get over is why the separate dairy products. Milk is on one side of the store, an area all its own. All the way opposite is cheese–but not ALL cheese–mostly just the “fancy” style cheeses. I have to go into the fridge to find blue cheese I’m after to accompany my buffalo cauliflower tacos tonight.
Rich likes sour cream, but where the hell do they put that? I check the yogurt section. It’s not there. Near the yogurt section is the “standard cheese” section. This is for your assortment of tasty cheese.
Yes, it’s an assortment. There’s Light Tasty, Mild Tasty, Extra Tasty, Grated Tasty, Sliced Tasty, Family-Sized Tasty. Surprisingly, there’s also a small selection of parmesan. No sour cream, though.
Eventually, I find it. It’s around the corner from the fancy cheese fridge, grouped in with things like tofu and kimchi. Not understanding the logic, I return to the produce section to regain a grip on reality.
Then I spot her, like I’m in within the Matrix. The Spanish girl in the red shirt. Her and her partner must have been doing the exact same thing as me, taking the long way around to the store. Her partner, who I hardly noticed the first time I saw him, now comes into clear view. Not for what he looks like or what he’s wearing but, in the crook of his arm I notice him cradling a carton of eggs.
I rush back to the back of the store, past the rogue sour cream, across from the fancy cheese fridge and there it is. A stock worker unloading a shipment of eggs.
I keep it cool. I consider my options.
Might as well go the full dozen today, I think. I zero in on the free-range options and gingerly lift it from the shelf. Just one dozen. This is not the time to push the limits.
I’ve been wandering the store for some time now, and when I lift my basket I realise even if I hadn’t taken the long way here, there’s no way the long way home would be in the cards. It’s heavy. I’m grateful for the time out food shopping. I’m blessed that all the items I was after were in stock. I put the eggs in my basket and beat it, already longing for the next run to the store.