The shopkeeper watches her. From behind the counter of his old fashioned parade grocer that has turned into a gourmet deli, he is a providore of small goods and wine, tobacco and fresh artisan produce.
He smiles a sad smile.
He has known her for over a decade.
He has known her mother even longer. These women, they used to appear together, and similar. These days, not so much. He has not seen the mother for a number of years. She has shrunk, from the local community, from life, into herself.
He keeps an eye on the girl as she moves around the small store, fond. He observes that she has lost weight, but still has tired eyes. Her movements are efficient. He wonders if she knows that despite the economy of her actions, she still displays a generous amount of care and worry?
Her children are not with her this week. Nor have they shared this chore for some months now. They are at school now. A useful protection from new and sadder memories.
The girl chooses quickly, from a list. A list, he notices, that is part of a further reaching diary of things to do.
Today's component of the list that gets shorter each and every week.
A list that used to pretend to be full of the promise of nutrient rich meals, a list of normality. Now they don't bother with pretending. Dog food, coffee, and the staples.
The staples of cigarettes and wine. Great volumes of both.
The fruit has disappeared from the list.
She still buys tomato juice and vanilla yogurt. And hopes that last weeks healthy produce may have been eaten. She will sadly realise, next week, that there is little point.
The point of the shopping, of the chore, is just the substance exchange.
She strides, still quick, taking note of crusty breads, rich mature cheddars and succulent pâtés. Creamy dips, some camembert, some gourmet crackers. Tropical juices, like nectar. Full fat iced coffee in a carton with some free chemicals, some cheesy chips with their divine orange crack dust. Her brown eyes flicker over the wares that are enticing.
She throws a block of chocolate into the basket. It will satisfy, perhaps. In the heart of her mind, she actually knows it won't help. The temptation is easier to fulfil that abstinence.
She pays him. Her card, the total cost of real food to substances is in poor ratio. The cost is high on her card, on health. Regardless of the cheap red wine, the volumes required come at such a cost.
She hauls the shopping bags from counter to car.
The providore watches her still.
He knows she will unpack the majority into her mothers larder. The wine is left out on a drinks tray, for convenience. She will clean up, feed the dog, deal with garbage bins and recycling. He recalls she deals with her Mothers post, with her bills, these days. He can hear an echo of the chatter they used to indulge in. Do they chat still? Or does resentment fill the guilty silences?
And then she is back in her car. And she sighs. Exhales. Relieved that the chore is complete for another week.
She sits for a moment without driving off. She wonders how long it will be before the time of day is justified for a glass to fill with red wine. Her Mother will feel the relief as she takes that first sip, as she swallows it to stuff down all the other stuff. The stuff that is too hard to deal with.
She reaches into her bag and breaks a chunk of chocolate and mindlessly eats it. It turns her brain off, momentarily. She swallows it, to stuff down all the other stuff...the stuff that is so hard to deal with.
We are all addicted to something.