#316: In the Wild

May 5th, 2014

His hair was slicked in a perfect ’50s greaser do. His strong chin and cold, calm eyes were in danger of being swallowed by the full neck of tattoos reaching out from beneath his jean jacket.

There were muscles under the jean jacket, but muscles that seemed used, not just swollen from too many reps of bad-for-your-back exercises to puff the glamor muscles. The man glided like a snake.

The woman with him was just as visually stunning. A calm, trained model’s face centered by a large metal ring piercing the center of her nose like a bull. She had bright red lips and spiky, close-cropped platinum hair. She had calm collect, an arrogant detachment.

They were gorgeous. Punk Adonises, every gesture oozing sex, danger and the taste of a stranger’s salty kiss.

“Wow,” the man said. “Nuts are on sale.”

“Ooh, we should get some,” the woman replied, pushing the cart up a little more.

No one’s cool in a grocery store, I thought as the man rifled through the shelf of various flavors of mixed nuts, picking out the varieties he knew his wife/girlfriend would like.

Well, the actual thought process went no one’s cool in a grocery store ooh almonds.

In one of the new Mariano’s, a grocery chain halfway in price and pretension between a Whole Foods and the Dominick’s they replaced, people milled on Sunday night.

They milled with wide eyes and full carts. They milled as they do in neighborhoods that have grocery stores, in places that can bring in massive lots of food and beverage and make it an attractive business proposition.

Maybe only public transit has a better representation of Chicagoans in their natural habitats, but even there there’s some sampling bias. People are in buses to go somewhere, so they present for that. Business people dress for business, club kids for clubs, et cetera. You can’t observe Chicagoans in the wild when they’re dressed for their destination.

No one gives a shit how they look in a grocery store.

Here’s a young woman, fresh off the scene. Her curves and hair tell me she’s a hot commodity out on the town. Her dumpy yoga pants and old T-shirt tells me she does not consider this the town.

Here’s a staid professional, the bearing of a man who wears a suit and gives the orders. He’s wandering the aisles, nervously looking for the exact type of tomato he was told to get.

Older couples slowly treading the aisles. A little boy being pushed in a cart while telling his mom a story of his own devising, one that involves shaking his head and making motorboat noises a lot. A woman wearing suspenders and a tuxedo shirt — there’s a story there, you can tell.

We’ve all got to eat, so we forget the pretense when we shop. No one to impress when you’re picking up a tub of peanut butter, someone else’s tampons and a multi-pack of Imodium.

Or in my case, yogurt, ravioli and a shit-ton of almonds.

I looked back at the gorgeous punk couple, the gods of sex and despair wandering the aisles looking how anger feels.

“We need potatoes,” the woman said as the gods pushed the shopping cart off.

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So, I won an award for this on Friday

And I’ll be doing this on Saturday

And unless that was a very mean prank email, I’ll be appearing on this next Monday

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You are currently reading #316: In the Wild by Paul Dailing at 1,001 Chicago Afternoons.

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