Last night I ate the last of the food. Three eggs and a piece of toast. Now there is nothing but a handful of walnuts and half a quart of beef broth. When I went to bed, it was in the full knowledge that breakfast was going to be a problem. To be overcome while hungry. Sometimes present you looks after future you and sometimes present you says, "Look. I hate grocery shopping. Tomorrow's your problem, pal."
Today's obligations: return some misguided purchases downtown and be at a theatre at 1:30pm. That's it
I woke late and after a full hour of pro and conning, I decided that it made most sense to go directly downtown, divest myself of awkward box stuffed with coats, and then eat.
- On the J Church, there are four couples whom I perceive to be college students home for break, until I realize that every last one of them is wearing a wedding ring. Question: am I a hundred years old? They are discussing air mattresses. All of them own air mattresses. One guy laughingly admits to "cheaping out" and buying the hand pump instead of the electric pump even though there was only about a five-dollar difference between them. He describes the fruitless pumping and pumping and wonders why the hand pump is even an available option. "I didn't say ONE WORD," his wife says.
- I exit the subway into the mall where I walk purposefully straight to the bank of Direct-to-Nordstrom elevators, only to find myself circling about visibly disoriented between a mini Chipotle and a Jamba Juice. Newsflash: the Nordstrom elevator no longer exists. It has probably been gone for years.
- I return my coats to a nice lady at Nordstrom while we are assailed by the Beach Boys' "Little Saint Nick." I ask her if she's okay. "It came so soon," she says.
- I return some "oh I guess I forgot what my actual body looks like when I purchased these" underwear at Bloomingdales. "Oh! I like your bag!" one saleslady says. I am holding a yellow plastic bag that I snatched from my kitchen to transport the unmentionables safely through the rain. It happens to be a bag that originated from a sandwich shop in Switzerland (reduce, reuse, recycle), but other than its international pedigree, it is unremarkable. It takes longer than it should to realize she is complimenting my purse. I explain that I bought it because it was small, but that I just keep stuffing things into it anyway. I tell her that the strap once broke. She tells me that her own mother once accidentally hit her in the head with a purse. "I was like, "Mama. You do not need that big ol' bag.'"
- It is now noon and I might faint from hunger. I refuse to eat in a food court because eating alone in a food court on a rainy Sunday afternoon seems like something from a commercial about depression. I try to go to some place in the Tenderloin that is currently a big deal (which is a surprising sentence), but am told the wait will be an hour. There are a great many empty tables, so I pretty much don't believe this, but I leave anyway.
- I pass two white-haired men on the sidewalk. One is leaning slightly forward in a posture I interpret as, "We are a little lost and would like to ask you for directions, but don't really want to stop you." I slow slightly as the man takes one lurching step toward me, the forward-leaning posture actually conveying, "I am very drunk and am trying to gather all the available forces of equilibrium in order to master forward motion." "Are you really that beautiful?" he asks. He does not indicate anything that I should be using for comparison, so I just say, "Yes, I am. Isn't it extraordinary?" and continue on my way.
- In the end, I wind up at Sears Fine Foods, a place I've never been, although, according to a sign on the door, it's been there for 77 years. The knowledge that they are famous for their little Swedish pancakes has somehow filtered into my consciousness, and I struggle mightily in deciding whether I would be foolish not to have them. I am now so hungry, decision-making is a little beyond my reach. Finally, I determine that the menu offers no evidence that they have real, as opposed to artificial, syrup. This, vis à vis famous little pancakes, concerns me. I order a hamburger. It's good. There's quite a lot of pepper on it, which is both novel and an excellent idea.
- Two women sit beside me at the counter. They are there to watch "the game." (I am seated in a corner where I cannot see the television.) They are in high spirits. They talk too loud and say "go! go! go!" and discuss at length what this game means for "us" and whether "we" are likely to go to the Superbowl. They drink two Bloody Marys each. I feel like I have never had less in common with anyone, but that's probably not true.
- When you get your check, Sears gives you a shiny gold token about the size of a 50 cent piece. It's got a pleasing weight to it, making it seem full of possibility. As you exit, you feed this fairy-tale golden coin into a slot machine and give the arm a good yank. I did not win a free meal, but I could have. Now we know, if you want your restaurant to thrive for 77 years, the secret to success is three-pronged: pepper on your hamburgers, diminutive pancakes, and prize-promising slot machine. Make a note.
- I go to a play. It's good. At one point, a man in a very stilted 1930s drama is obliged to do a romantic ballroom-type dance on crutches, which is funnier than I might have guessed.
- Later, standing at Church and Duboce waiting for the J Church, two people walk the length of the platform, staring at their phones. I think, as I always think at this moment, "Arrrrrghhh. Cell phones have made everyone so BORING." Just then, one of them looked up and said, surprised, "Oh. Hey" to the other one. He looked up, took a minute to place her, and then they hugged. I felt vindicated.
In the sky to the north a flock of small black birds arced and dived in perfect formation. Half veiled by a rain cloud they looked not quite real, their wings in flight like an effect of a strobe light instead of their actual beating: fast, fast, fast.