People at a supermarket line

In Line

Today was their first anniversary – an year since they had first met – and it was apt that they celebrated by coming to where it had started for them: counter 5 of the local supermarket. Only this time, they had one bill between them; they had started living together last month.

She was cute that day in the line just before him, in her kurti and jeans, and he hot in all denim. But they connected over (after he had racked his brains for an opening line) their mostly similar grocery list. Both were single, lived alone, and liked cooking and eating. They had started with the standard movie-and-dinner, then moved to streaming-and-chill, and now, it was more chill than streaming.

In fact, ‘chill’ best described their relationship. No real pressure to head anywhere, whether on weekends or on some conjugal path. The decision to live together was a practical one too: it saved time getting to work and to each other, and he cooked one day and she the other. This ease perhaps comes from finding love late: both were knocking at 40 and survivors of half as many heartbreaks between them.

But actually finding each other wouldn’t have happened if they had both lived inside their smartphones, like everyone seems to these days. Else, they would have been ordering stuff on a groceries app and swiping like crazy on a matchmaking one. And never gotten into this line at counter 5.

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Graphic of a man holding a direction sign with oversized fingers around him, pointing him in different directions

Supermarket

“You know, you’re like that guy in a supermarket, who stands in one queue, then finding that it’s not moving fast enough, moves to one with less people, only to find that the new one is now not moving either. So, he moves to yet another queue. At the end, he realizes he’s not really gotten ahead, but having to start over each time. Finally, he sees that if he had stuck in the first queue, he might even have finished by now…”

The friend tells me. The friend begins looking bigger and bigger as he speaks – like a rapidly increasing line – and I begin feeling smaller and smaller – like your purchases at the end of the month.

The friend has “done well” in life. Two flats, a new car every five years or so, a steady job, kids in a good school, work trips to foreign lands, holidays to domestic haunts in summer and to international shores after the annual bonus. The classic upwardly mobile middle-class life.

I, on the other hand, have been “jumping”. Careers, jobs, cities, gigs, thoughts, choices, dreams… Mid-life crisis? Crises? Neuroses? Let’s just go with “unconventional choices”.

I pause, and reply. “No, I’m like the supermarket shelf, which changes its display every six months or so, based on what’s working or not working.”

The friend looks straight into my eyes. His ivory-tower advice seems to have not met its target. It’s fallen on its face from the tower. The tower is intact, though. It is an ivory tower, after all.

I go on. “I don’t keep moving the goal-post… I just keep evolving my shot to see which scores.”

It’s time to call for the cheque. Of course, Mr Having Done Well in Life is paying. I anyway eat very little. And so, don’t go to supermarkets too often.