at least weekly, i escape to a strange and beautiful place where, once i enter in the shiny automatic dual sliding doors, a seemingly magical burst of fresh cool cold air washes across my face, rustling my hair. then, silence. everything pauses. even the hands on my watch come to a halt. i have to stand still and take this in this moment of arrival. i breathe in the fresh cool air and invariably, i hear a voice: "welcome to wal-mart".
"thank you!". i smile. i'm genuinely elated to be here. what is an inconvenience to others is a treasured luxury for me. it's usually dark outside when i arrive. the crowds have dispersed and when i enter in this massive warehouse-like structure there is an eery silence that yields to peaceful tranquility.
i haven't come here to actually purchase anything, yet i've already selected my over sized, androgynous gray cart. ready to begin my odyssey of aimless perusing. i have nearly perfected this peculiar, methodical ritual of filling my cart with random and utterly useless items that i find along the way. i scour the shelves and wracks like a seasoned treasure hunter.
indeterminable amounts of time pass. inevitably, i become weary. from walking. from pushing. from searching. the weariness gives way to an awareness of time and consequently, money. i realize that this escapade of mine doesn't come cheaply. glancing at my cart full of - for lack of a better word - crap - i realize that these precious moments of solitude are costing me, on average, at least fifty bucks an hour. i'm no mathematical genius, but i know that's more than i make. awareness has now given way to reality. i have to put something back. no. i have to put several things back; and thus begins the mental conundrum. it's true what they say about commitment phobia - it isn't exclusive to relationships - it can cause the most mundane of decisions to be agonizing. (do i keep the floral plastic tote or v-neck tee?) it doesn't matter that i have five variations of each at home or that neither are in any danger of selling out before next week.
i push the cart around aimlessly, futilely rationalizing and debating with myself. i travel from one side of the store to the other, working the aisles like a rat in a maze, pausing only at the price checker. solitude officially over. i want to flee, abandoning the cart - useless clearance crap and all. but i flee to the register instead where, despite whatever i have painstakingly chosen return, i already feel pangs of remorse and disappointment, which only grow stronger when i see the total.
"i'm never coming back", i think to myself as i'm rolling the cart away. and i won't. until next week. or until parker runs out of lightning mcqueen pull-ups. whichever comes first. :)