You're removed from your own head by a wall of stale cold air. The automatic doors slide shut behind you as you try to remember what you were doing.
Oh yeah. The milk.
About half the registers are staffed at this hour. It's surprising they can afford to offer even that many. The economy must be on the rise.
The nursery. Flowers couldn't hurt but there's probably no milk over there. It's closed, anyway.
The cafe. You wonder when the first shift starts. You wonder if she's working today.
There's a big display of lawn chairs just past the registers. Farther behind that you might see a bank of refrigerators. Might as well look.
Let's get out of here.
The price of milk, on the other hand…
What a loaded word.
The nights when she would slip out unannounced while you were asleep—what was going through her mind when she ended up behind that counter?
How did she smile so warmly at all those uncaffeinated slobs?
Anyone that doesn't already have lawn chairs doesn't have the space to sit in them. Still, they're here, and they're inescapable.
The air is even colder and more stale back here. In front of you is a deep metal enclosure full of red meat adhered to white foam, cut and sliced and ground in every which way. In either direction there are larger, free-standing cases, frozen vegetables protected by glass doors. You've forgotten how the summer night feels.
Orange juice is not unlike milk. Maybe that's the place to be.
There are so many bottles and cartons of juice here. It's hard to believe that this many varieties of juice are popular enough to survive in this town. What's the shelf life on a half-gallon of apple-pomegranate juice? Do you want to know?
There's cheese next door. Then there's eggs, and above the eggs is some milk. The carton you took left one frustratingly empty space in the otherwise perfect line of products. Further down is bread, and the meat is back that way.
No sense in grabbing more.
Oh right, milk! That's what you were looking for!
Might as well retrace our steps.
Maybe there's something good back there.
You place your milk on the far end of the conveyor belt and walk alongside it as the cashier coaxes your prize forward. You recognize her but try to avoid eye contact.
She rings up your milk. You swipe your credit card. The screen illuminates.
If you're quick, you can get home before she's hungry. Maybe you can even have the bottle warm by the time she wakes up.
You get into your car.
They're as uncomfortable as they look. Still, you wonder if you could afford a set. Have some iced tea at dusk outside.
Onward, to the colder parts.
The milk was over here.
Where the humans are.