He looked at his choice of fruit as a metaphor for his choices in life in his current circumstances. Bruised apples that would surely be of that dire mealy texture on biting into the unfortunately soft flesh. Bananas that had come off the tree far too soon; bright green and reluctantly placed under the harsh lights of the overly abundant mega-market that never had anything one really wanted, or needed for that matter. Looking at the bananas he realized he could empathize with their plight – plucked from a tropical paradise somewhere, shoved in a maladjusted space for temporary holding until they were selected for something better, at the hands of others and on which they have no influence. He would not be purchasing any bananas.
Wandering among the misshapen melons and precariously balanced boxes of berries, he kept looking for something. The search is always so much more difficult when the object is undefined. There was something he needed, a reason he came into the place. What was it?
Aimlessly wandering in the vast aisles of things, mops, Doritos, toothpaste, dog food, paper plates, canned meats, preserves… who eats preserves anymore? Overpowered by the sharp, slightly sweet – somehow still acrid – scent of Aisle 18 he remembered – laundry detergent. The smell made his eyes water and his nose itch. How would one be able to recognize an unscented product in this sea of phthalates? Finally there was one. He would get this and go. He had been at the lab so long that the opportunities for venturing out into synaptic sludge of the town in which he found himself were dwindling. And he still had to shower and shave.
His peregrinations finally found him at the checkout counter. Looking down the empty rows, there could have been hundreds of the same mechanical setups. He saw only one with an occupant: an incredibly bored looking woman of about 50, overly made up and clearly irritated that someone was still shopping at this late hour. But why? She was here anyhow, surely a customer would make things more entertaining rather than less… “Is this all for you, then?” She croaked through a voice marked by decades of menthol cigarettes as she grabbed the container of detergent and looked at the label. “You use the organic stuff, huh? You know it smells funny.”
“Actually, it doesn’t smell…” He started to explain. Her raised eyebrow sent him in search of his wallet, recognizing the futility of elaboration, he would be done with this exercise soon enough.
Exiting the store, a cold breeze greeted him, a welcome change from the recycled air inside the building. Crossing the dark parking lot with the detergent in his hand (he had refused a bag prompting another suspicious look from the cashier), he found his car and got in. Sitting for a moment, he realized that he had neglected to actually buy anything to eat, which seemed like it had been the original intention. What was it he had wanted…
Turning the key the car started and immediately the quiet parking light fell away as his lights and stereo came on. Thoughtlessly making his way on along his memorized route, he could not shake the sensation that he had missed a chance to get something, maybe even that one thing that might open the evening to interesting chances and possibilities. What could he have found in that monstrous store to placate his restive state?
Why hadn’t he though of that? Pulling into the driveway adjacent to his front porch, it dawned on him. Mangoes were what he had wanted. Did that store even have mangoes? Hidden somewhere amidst the Cool-whip and Cheeze-whiz and canned ham? He hadn’t noticed.
Entering his house he saw that a light was on. Putting down the detergent he walked back towards his bedroom, passing the stacks of books and papers yet to be perused and sorted and comprehended. There was someone there, but he couldn’t tell who. Oddly familiar, she was sitting on the edge of the bed holding a book. He didn’t recognize the book, but everything else was exactly as he would have expected. The entire situation seemed completely appropriate in spite of the totally incongruous circumstances.
“I brought you something,” she said, and handed him a bag.
Looking inside, he saw three perfect mangoes.