I swear to effing god I just need sunscreen. Sunscreen. That’s it. That’s all. Nothing more, nothing less. One bottle.
The problem is, it’s located in beauty. To get there, I’ll have to traverse the entire store — akin to walking over hot coals while wearing dollar bills for shoes. The first hurdle will be emotionally and physically clearing the office supply aisle, which I feel confident doing if only because I’m not in school and work exclusively in digital. I’m 70% sure I do not need gold scissors. Does that stapler have googly eyes? Go go go.
The home-decor section is looming. I can feel my constitutions weakening by way of a throw pillow that looks like a pink yarn monster. Such a pillow might transform my entire apartment, that much I know, but I’m stronger than that. Just like I’m stronger than that decorative, red metal tray that reminds me of a lobster and makes me want to throw a party. Why the fuck would I need a tray? Am I a waiter? A bedside table that looks like it’s from West Elm — what the hell, Nate Berkus — makes eyes at me. Absolutely not.
When I see a pool-sized bin of $10 throw blankets, I know I’m screwed. I genuinely need a new blanket. Swear to G. They’re so cheap! Okay: I will get the blanket and then I will get the sunscreen and then I will exit this store and call my grandfather. I sail right past the kitchen aisle, turning my nose up at a mini crockpot and set of anthropomorphized measuring spoons that might change my life.
The apparel section is an adorable pink pouf’s throw away — which I have no use for aside from personal fulfillment — and I’m sweating. I spot a pack of Hanes white T-shirts. My left knee buckles. My right eye twitches. I grab a pack (a single pack!) and stuff it inside the folds of the blanket, because if it’s hidden it doesn’t exist.
Sunscreen. That’s it.
I trot through loungewear and activewear, past soft cotton robes and sweatpants made of dreams. I nab some no-show socks without so much as slowing my gait. I stare at a wall of swag printed with fake vintage logos of my local sports team until I remember I don’t like sports. I exit the apparel section like a professional speed-walker.
I skirt through home and cleaning supplies, shaking my head at a Swiffer Wet Jet and a jug of strangely adorable detergent pods that I may or may not have named Suzy. I huff past some plastic bins that would fix my pantry and elbow some bulk hangers that would fix my closet. Finally, Jesus Christ, I arrive at beauty.
As I jog my way through the first aisle, I blink dismissively at a sleeve of cotton pads, my favorite drugstore mascara, a stick of deodorant that’s so mini I could cry and a pack of Bioré strips that would no doubt elevate my self-care game. In the next aisle, I shake my head at soft loofah I deem a “want” and decide against stealing a spritz of dry shampoo. By the time I arrive at the sunscreen, my heart is pounding. I pace back and forth, examining each bottle for clues as to which is best. This takes just over 17 minutes. My stomach growls, my head hurts, I forget the purpose of sunscreen and I conclude, with a bitterness in my soul, that I simply can’t decide.
I swear off capitalism and wander towards the register, grabbing some Lemonheads, a box of wine and a pack of gum. I pay my bill (what, 377 dollars?) and skedaddle out of there, seven bags inexplicably in hand and the store clerk behind me, ready to lock up as the clock strikes 11 p.m.
Illustrations by Maria Jia Ling Pitt.