The first time I stopped into the convenience store near my apartment, I was wearing a New York Mets hat, and the cashier looked at my hat and looked at my toothpaste and looked at my hat and said, “All those injuries, man. I can’t believe all those injuries. Think they can pull it out?” and I said, “They're playing well, they’re playing well. Just gotta hang on a little while longer… Have a good one. Let’s go Mets!”
After that, every time I stopped into the convenience store near my apartment, the
cashier would say, “All those injuries, man. I can’t believe all those injuries. Think they can pull it out?” and I had to pretend I didn’t remember we had the exact same conversation the day before and the day before that and so I would say, “They're playing well, they’re playing well. Just gotta hang on a little while longer… Have a good one. Let’s go Mets!”
This went on every day for about six months. Then the season ended, and I was relieved I’d no longer have to keep up the act, but I still needed toothpaste, because I still had teeth, so I stopped into the convenience store near my apartment, and the cashier said, “All those injuries, man. I can’t believe all those injuries. Think they can pull it out?” My face went slack. Oh no, oh no no no. The cashier’s eyes were wide, unblinking, his mouth slightly parted, turned upward at its corners. He wanted to finish his smile so badly. I rubbed at my arm, scratched at the top of my shoe with my other shoe, and said, “They're playing well, they’re playing well. Just gotta hang on a little while longer.”
Now fully smiling, even to the point of showing his gums, the cashier swiped my
toothpaste through his little red sensor. I breathed. It was going to be okay.
He handed me the box of toothpaste, and I said, “Have a good one. Let’s go Mets!”
throwing my hand into the air and grinning at him while turning to leave. Not paying attention to what was in front of me, I bumped hard into a man poking through magazines near the counter. “Whoa!” he said, stumbling for a moment before turning toward me. It was star New York Mets first baseman, Pete Alonso. “Watch out, there. Don’t want to injure us,” he said, gesturing to all the other members of the New York Mets 40-man roster standing behind him. “We’re members of the New York Mets, and right now we are completely healthy. That’s right, we have no injuries! Not that we are playing. It’s winter after all.”
“Precisely,” said star New York Mets shortstop, Francisco Lindor. “We look forward to next season. We hope to pull it out and win a championship, but of course, that’s next season, there is no playoff berth to pull out now, or lead to otherwise hang on to, because the prior season is over, and it is winter, and we have no injuries.”
The cashier dropped his scanner onto the counter. My deception laid bare, he looked like my mother did when she found my Blu-ray porn collection in the eighth grade. I looked at the cashier and back at Pete and back at the cashier and at my shoes and back at Pete and back at the cashier and then slit my throat with the box of toothpaste. But since it was a box of toothpaste and not a knife, it just made a slightly red mark on my neck.
Pete Alonso said, “Wow… You alright there, bud?”
The cashier shrieked and began to cry. The New York Mets stared at me. I threw the box of toothpaste at a pile of cereal boxes, trying to divert attention, but it just hit the front box and fell to the ground, so then I picked it up and placed it lightly on the shelf. A puddle of tears formed around the cashier’s face, now smooshed flat against the counter. He moaned and shivered. I squeezed through the 40-man roster toward the entrance, whining, “excuse me,” and, “so sorry,” and then, finally reaching the door, sprinted to my apartment and spent the rest of the week pacing around the kitchen.
Much of this time was spent muttering my lines and muttering the cashier’s lines and trying to change the nature of reality by reenacting everything that led up to the embarrassment over and over, changing small parts here and there to avert the coming disaster. But the nature of reality did not change. Then I took copious amounts of acid in an attempt to obliterate my sense of self, in an attempt to obliterate the suffering inherent in being a person. But this just resulted in me losing my job, as it’s very hard to build software when you’ve taken copious amounts of acid. My savings were quickly depleted, and rent payments became impossible.
Years were spent on the street. I had to sell my body just to survive. There are people who will pay top dollar for a finger. I only made it off the streets due to the luck of a minor lottery success, which provided me safe lodging for long enough to re-enter the workforce.
The pain has diminished with time, but still it is there, always there, lingering in the back of every interaction, every word, every movement.
And so that is why I use self-checkout.
Tyler Plofker is a writer living in NYC. In his free time, you can find him eating sugary breakfast cereals, laying out in the sun, or walking through the streets of New York City in search of this or that. He loves writing bios in third person.