I finished grocery shopping. What a chore. Ninety-four bucks for two bags worth of everyday shite. Garbage bags, toilet paper, detergent, toothpaste, sausages, pre-packaged spring lettuces, one onion and one green pepper, seltzer, cookies, and a couple of bottles of vitamins. I stared at the receipt. No mistakes. Goddamn it, living was expensive. And living in the NY metro area was effin over the top. Sometimes it made you sick. Then you had to worry about health insurance.
The parking lot was full. I thought to myself, this is how working stiffs spend their weekends, walking up and down supermarket aisles with their smart phones and shopping list apps, determining which items they can afford to buy. It was a rigged game: the processed junk you didn't want or need was always on sale but the staples were expensive and rarely discounted. Coke was cheaper than milk, frozen waffles cheaper than eggs. The big agribusinesses had you by the short hairs but there was little you could do about it unless you had the time and money to join a CSA or shop in those exclusive little Eastside specialty stores that carry artisanal products designed to confer status on members of the wannabe privileged class. A member of which you definitely were not.
I got back to the car. It needed to be washed. Hell, the whole effin world needed to be washed. Some enterprising soul had slipped a flier under the windshield wiper. It read, "Nueva Vida. Millions of people use herbs to look their best and achieve financial independence. You can too. Get the key nutrients you need. Call 888-766-VIDA." I was feeling stale and strung out -- the way I always felt after getting ripped off -- and figured maybe it was a sign. I had to concede that I needed a new life. The one I was living hadn't taken me much further than this effin Shop-Rite. Even Merwin couldn't've put it poetically.
What could the promise be? When my mother was dying of cancer we tried every fucking combination of nutritional supplements mentioned in Adele Davis's Eat Right books and guess what? My mother and Adele Davis both died anyway, just a few months apart. So much for nutritional supplements. Effin apricot pits.
Hope springs eternal in the human breast. Yeah, right. Nueva vida probably referred to a homily preached in one of those evangelical churches you see up in Union City: a low nondescript structure in the middle of an undistinguished block with a stucco facade and a reinforced steel door. Metal shutters over the windows and an alarm system, just in case mi padre is a little slow on the uptake when the neighborhood druggies break in. You'd be hard pressed to find new life in there. Just loud music and a whole lot of shaking going on: the wretched -- the poor and meek -- of the earth coming to grips with their lord and savior as best they can. Their worshipfulness may move you to tears but it ain't gonna pay the mortgage.
I looked at the flier again. Nothing further about neuva vida revealed itself to me. It probably was a scam. I crumpled up the piece of paper and threw it in one of the grocery bags, figuring I'd chuck it in the garbage when I got home. I stood there disbelieving but wanting to let go, a hundred bucks lighter in the wallet and little to show for it, on a gray day not two miles as the crow flies from the Empire State Building. I thought to myself, let me be numbered among those who need a little more nourishment today than these purchases can provide. Then I hightailed it out of there and drove around north Jersey for a while without thinking at all.