Arsenal slipped out of bed and padded to the kitchen to put on the kettle. She rinsed her favorite mug and fished in the cupboard only to find that she was down to her last bag of tea.
Not a problem, she thought, one cup would be enough to get the day started and feeling full of that famous British resolve she walked triumphantly to the fridge to get the milk. The carton was there but as soon as she lifted it from the shelf she knew it was empty. “Paddy…”, she said under her breath, and just then she envisioned him drinking straight from the carton, tipping it all the way back to get the last drop. Standing there bathed in the light of the open refrigerator door, he probably held the carton over his head and danced around like he’d just won the FA Cup against United on penalties. Then he closed the lid and put the carton back on the shelf, shutting the door with a little grin.
One cup of tea to start the day was one thing but not having milk for the tea was another matter entirely. There was nothing for it but to go to Sainsbury’s and get some supplies. Milk, a tin of biscuits, and perhaps some chicken for dinner.
She slipped on a pair of Crocs (with the fur inside) and looked down at her pajama bottoms. The thought crossed her mind that perhaps going out in public wearing pajama bottoms and Crocs might not be the most dignified way to go shopping. “Folks need to be respecting themselves and not going in public looking like they don’t care about their appearance.” is what her father would say any time he saw someone wearing even sweat pants in public, he would probably have a word with a young lady if he saw her wearing pajamas. But Arsenal looked at her pajamas with their cute little hearts and thought “no one will be up at this hour, and besides, I can pull this look off. It’s all about attitude!” And with that Arsenal tucked her hair up under her hat, blew herself a kiss in the hall mirror, and breezed off to the supermarket.
Sainsbury’s was brightly lit, the food all lined perfectly, but ultimately as dull as one expects from a chain grocery store. There were a few other shoppers, some of which gave Arsenal a look but she just shook them off and stood in aisle 5 taking her time picking out the perfect biscuits.
Arsenal looked through all the different cookies Siansbury’s had to offer. She couldn’t just pick any brand, she had to read every ingredient; the biscuit needed to have some fiber, some whole grains and not too much fat. They couldn’t have too many carbs, no high fructose corn syrup, and certainly no preservatives either. She stared at each package in turn, picking it up, looking at the packaging, then the ingredients and then picking up the last package and comparing the two.
This went on for an age. 80 minutes in real time but to the people working at Sainsbury’s it seemed more like time had frozen around this poor woman. Standing there in her pajamas staring at biscuit tin after biscuit tin, getting slightly excited about one and putting it in her basket before taking it out and comparing it to the next.
After about the 80th minute, a man walked by the biscuit aisle, turned and walked back to check if he had seen what he thought he’d seen. He cocked his head, furrowed his brow, and walked straight at Arsenal, who was standing there comparing the Newman’s Own Oreos to the Mother’s Circus Animal cookies.
“Arsenal?” His voice crept into her conscious like a velvet fog. “Arsenal… Arsenal.”
She turned and there was Jack smiling at her but looking down at her with concern. Oh Jack, she’s carried this torch for so long and and here he was freshly showered and well put together with a nice sweater and pair of expensive jeans. He even had on a pair of nice suede shoes.
“Jack, love, just picking up a few things. How are you?” She tossed the Mother’s cookies in her basket and flashed him a smile but it wasn’t the confident, poised smile that Jack was used to seeing around the neighborhood. This was the toothsome grin of woman who felt unsure.
“You doing ok? You look a little…” his voice drifted off and he looked down at her pants.
Arsenal was flushed. Suddenly self-conscious, she looked up at Jack and just smiled again, “I’ve got to get home, mother’s sick and I’m here just getting some things.” And without another word, she spun around and turned down the aisle toward the cashier. It was as if she suddenly had an urgency and purpose to her day.
For the last 10 minutes of her time at Sainsbury’s Arsenal didn’t even stop to wave goodbye to Jack, she just picked item after item and walked purposefully from one task to the next. Arsenal saw Jack in her peripheral vision and she could feel him staring at her, but she didn’t even look at him.
When she got home, Arsenal stopped and looked at herself in the hall mirror. It was exactly as bad as she imagined. “I shouldn’t have gone out like this.” She said to no one. “Jack’s never going to forget that.”
She took the bag of groceries to the kitchen and put the kettle on again. Dad was right, dad is always right she thought as the kettle started to warm up. Folks need to be respecting themselves and not wear pajamas and crocs in public. It takes just a few more minutes to put on a dignified display.
Pants. I wasn’t even wearing pants. Jack must have thought I was a crazy person.
She pulled the biscuits out of the bag and set them on the counter. The kettle went off and Arsenal poured the hot water over her tea. As the tea steeped she walked to the fridge to get the milk.
The milk. She forgot the milk.